Wednesday, 20 May 2015


We’re All Agog About the Smog!

In Edmonton, a controversial topic has risen up in discussion as a group of physicians take a stand against their poor air quality. They claim it is the coal-fired electrical generating plants found in their province which have caused their air quality to be “worse than that of other larger centres such as Toronto” (CBC News).

Factory in Edmonton

After examining a decade's worth of air quality data, The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has seen some startling trends in the air quality of Edmonton. In comparison to Toronto as well as Ontario, they saw “higher levels of fine particulate matter in the air”, which they believe is due to their “dependence on coal-fired electrical generation” Calgary-based Dr. Joe Vipond told CBC news. Inhabitants of Edmonton are worried they’re not doing enough to clean up their airways while most Canadian cities are effectively reducing their air quality.

Michael Brauer, a professor in School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, has stated that the particles found suspended in the air of Edmonton can “travel deep down into our respiratory tract…  deposit[ing themselves] and com[ing] in contact with tissue, generally lead[ing] to inflammation”.

The biggest cause of concern for inhabitants of Edmonton is the comparison between their air quality to that of Toronto. Even though Edmonton is only about one-fifth the size of greater Toronto in terms of population, Edmonton shows substantially higher levels of fine particulate matter in their air. Also, in comparison to Ontario’s fine particulate numbers which have “been dropping steadily over the last 10 years… as their coal phase-out has occurred” (CBC News) those of Edmonton have been going up.

A smoggy winter day in Edmonton, Alberta 2009

CBC states that in December, a report released by Alberta's Environment and Sustainable Resource Development showed two Edmonton regions — Edmonton Central and Edmonton East — exceeded the Canada-wide standards for the amount of fine particulate matter in the air. In signing the Canada Wide Standard for Particulate Matter (PM) and Ozone:

These Canada-Wide standards committed governments to significantly reduce PM and ground-level ozone by 2010. The standards are an important step towards the long-term goal of minimizing the risks of these pollutants to human health and the environment. They represent a balance between achieving the best health and environmental protection possible and the feasibility and costs of reducing the pollutant emissions that contribute to PM and ground-level ozone. (Environment Canada)

It’s important for Alberta’s government to realize the social benefit of cleaning up their air quality as well as some legal implications they could have if they don’t. There are many health implications involved with poor air quality. Environment Canada states that there are “extensive scientific studies [which] indicate that…  particulate matter and ozone are linked to serious health impacts including chronic bronchitis, asthma, and premature death”.  Also recall Brauer, the professor in School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, who suggests that “the particulates have been linked to a number of cardiovascular and respiratory health problems in areas that rely on coal-fired electrical plants around the world, including increased heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, strokes, lung cancer and emphysema. The substance can also affect fetal health, birth weight and lung development in children” (CBC News). If Edmonton can clean up their air, they could potentially save costs in regards to their medical sector as well as create a safer environment for its inhabitants. Another strong reason to clean up air quality would be that regions in Edmonton have already surpassed Canada-wide standards for the amount of fine particulate matter in the air. If they don’t clean things up fast, they could legally have a dilemma with the Canadian government.

Smog in Edmonton

While it’s true that many inhabitants of Edmonton blame the coal-fired electrical generating plants for their air quality problems, pollution can also be attributed to forest fires, weather patterns, automobiles, home heating and the domestic sources. Perhaps Edmonton should adopt a similar law to that in Spain where vehicles must pay a road tax. While visiting in Spain, I had a conversation with my uncle who lives there about their pollution reduction efforts.We spoke about the Impuesto sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica (IVTM) which is an annual tax that:
[Is] payable on all vehicles in circulation on the road. vehicles providing some types of public service and vehicles which have been registered for 25 years or more are exempt from IVTM. The rate takes into account the horsepower of the vehicle and type of vehicle. The rate is arranged so that vehicles with higher horsepower pay a higher fee. Electric or hybrid fuel vehicles receive a discount of up to 75 percent on this tax. Vehicles with eco-friendly adaptations may also receive a discount. (AngloInfo)
Alberta as a whole could also make more concentrated efforts to phase-out their coal dependency as most provinces in Canada have done over the past couple of years. If Toronto can do it, so can Alberta!
Do you think implementing the IVTM annual tax in Edmonton would work to reduce some of their emissions? What do you think about the idea of introducing this law to the whole of Canada? What other suggestions do you have for Edmonton to improve their air quality?

Thanks buds, I’m banging these blog posts out tonight while listening to the Grease soundtrack, wish me luck on this last one!


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1 comment:

  1. I have to be honest here, just that smog is a thing disgusts me, I could never live somewhere like that. Personally I would love to buy a house on the beaches of Grise Fiord one day and leave these matters behind, alas... As for the tax, who knows, we here in North America suck at promoting pro-environmental ideas. Just that we have to make a tax to prevent too many emissions is crazy, in Europe they accept these green taxes and whatnot more easily because so many of them have wholeheartedly accepted the concept of keeping green, something we lack. These taxes will help but not as much as promoting a positive perception of these ideas.