Term Paper on Air Pollution in Toronto

A serious issue that many people in Toronto are facing in their day-to-day lives is the great phenomenon called pollution. The people of Toronto are facing serious health threats due to three major types of pollution. The first major type of pollution is water pollution, which effects many people in Toronto because of the many polluted streams, rivers, and lake Ontario which we receive our water from. Secondly, Torontonians are in risk due to the increasing amount of Air pollution which is proven to be a serious threat to our health. And Thirdly, Pesticide Pollution is another form of pollution which is on the rise to ruining our health. The city of Toronto and the people who live in it, are facing serious health threats due to water pollution, air pollution, and pesticide pollution which they should take seriously and not ignore.

Pollution from storm water runoff and untreated overflows from sewers, degrade the quality of water in Toronto’s creeks, rivers, and lake Ontario; Therefor,it is increasing the risk of health issues to the people of Toronto and the surrounding areas. The major water pollutants are chemical, biological, or physical materials that degrade our water quality. These pollutants can be divided into many categories, each of which presents its own hazards. Petroleum products, such as oil and chemicals used for fuel get into the water mainly by accidental spills by ships and tankers; many of these are poisonous if ingested, and often cause death. Heavy metals such as copper leak into the water from many sources, mainly industries, and when they reach high levels they can be severely poisonous or result in long term health problems such as liver and kidney damage. Hazardous wastes are chemical wastes that are toxic, and if they are improperly stored, they can pollute water supplies. Municipal waste are a complex mixture of human waste, suspended solids, and a variety of chemicals that come from residential, commercial and industrial activities. Other categories of water pollutants include: Industrial discharges, urban runoff, landfills and waste disposals,and thermal pollution. There are many sources of water pollution. The major source of water pollution is a result from human activities, which includes industrial sources, mines, sewage water, and can also derive from agricultural sources like farms; which contribute animal wastes, agricultural chemicals, and sediment from erosion. Water pollution can also originate from other types of pollution such as air pollution, which leads to acid rain. For the citizens of Toronto, water pollution is a great risk to our health due to our heavy pollution problems in rivers, streams, and lake Ontario. Problems such as bacterial contamination is a major threat to our health;because of the serious concern today of the toxic chemicals that enter our water from homes, farms, and industries. However, there is little known about the effects of these toxic substances on human health, because the effects do not become noticeable for long periods of time. Therefor, it is hard to differentiate them from other factors that impact our day to day life such as stress. Even though it is hard to pinpoint the effects, it is very important to research them and monitor Toronto’s water quality. Good quality of water is a precious resource because of the vital role it plays in life on earth.

Air pollutants, pose serious health threats and even death to many people in Toronto. It is important for the people of Toronto to be aware that air pollution is not just an issue in the smog-filled summer, but it is also a great issue and health threat in the winter months as well. Most air pollution comes from human activity; the burning of fossil fuels-natural gas, coal and oil to power industrial processes, and motor vehicles. Among the harmful chemical compounds this burning puts into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and tiny solid particles which include lead from gasoline additives called particulate are present. When fuels are incompletely burned, various chemicals called volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) also enter the air. Other sources of air pollution are from decomposing garbage in landfills and solid waste disposal sites, which emits gas, and many household products that give off VOCs. Pollution sources tend to be concentrated in cities, and local and regional pollution takes place in the lower level of the atmosphere. The lower level is the troposphere which is the region where most weather occurs. In Toronto, the most noticeable way to tell that our city has an air pollution problem is the mass amounts of smog that swallow up our city in the humid summer months. Smog is an intense local pollution that is usually trapped by a thermal inversion. Burning of gasoline in cars is the main source of smog in Toronto. Smog is dangerous because it contains ozone which is a form of oxygen gas made up of molecules; ozone in the lower atmosphere is poison and it irritates lung tissue. When the ozone level is high, other pollutants, including carbon monoxide are present at high levels as well. For the very young, the very old and people who suffer from asthma or heart disease, the effects of smog are dangerous. Smog can cause headaches or dizziness and can also cause severe breathing difficulties. In extreme cases, smog can lead to mass illness or death, mainly because of carbon monoxide poisoning. In 1952 in London, about 4000 people died in one of the notorious smog events known as “London fogs”, and in 1962, another 700 Londoners died. Besides the chemicals that cause smog, several other pollutants attack the ozone layer. The most recognized are chemicals known as chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), which were formally used in refrigerants (in air conditioners), and propellants in spray cans. Due to the high usage of these chemicals, scientists are finding that CFCs are ruining the protective ozone layer and it is slowly thinning. Although CFC use has been greatly reduced over the years, it will soon be prohibited world wide. However, the result of the thinning ozone layer, there is an increase in skin cancer, and more people are expected to have cataracts. It is recognized that the comprehensive air quality strategy needs to be built on, integrate and ordinate existing efforts to improve Toronto’s air quality. There is also awareness that the completed strategy should include provisions to measure and asses progress in cleaning up our air. “Moving towards cleaner air” is a program that generally focuses on smog issues; but the final strategy will deal with all outdoor air issues, including greenhouse gases, ozone depletion, toxins, and acid rain. It also addresses relevant goals and city directions outlined in council’s strategic plan for the city of Toronto. Very shortly, a new law will be passed that is designed to: Provide improved public account abilities for all sources of air pollution in the province, motivate companies to lower their emissions, level the environmental playing field for companies in all economic sectors, help the ministry set and enforce new emissions limits, and track the progress of the ministry’s air quality initiatives. Hopefully, this law will improve Toronto’s air quality, which will therefor improve the people of Toronto’s health, and reduce the risk of serious illnesses.

Besides water and air pollution, pesticides create serious health threats toTorontonians. This is because of the amount used on neighborhood lawns, and the amount of pesticides found on the food we consume. Chemicals used to kill unwanted pests, and plants on farms, or in suburban yards, may be collected by rainwater runoff and carried into streams, which greatly affects the drinking water in Toronto. Some of these chemicals are biodegradable and quickly decay into harmless or less harmful forms, while others are non-biodegradable and remain dangerous for a long time. Even though synthetic chlorinated pesticides have been used since the 1940s, for several decades scientists have found serious environmental ramifications associated with some of them. Canada has regulations and screening processes in place but there are still many unanswered questions to how they effect humans. There are also new problems which will increase pesticide pollution in Toronto. If our climate warms, it may become possible to plant crops in areas that were previously considered unsuitable, and this could cause changes in the pattern of pesticide use. Furthermore, changes in climate could also introduce new pests to Canada, which could result in an increase of pesticide use. The reason why pesticide pollution is such an issue is because researchers have found that people with high levels of pesticides and chemicals, known as PCBs, in their blood streams are for more likely to develop genetic mutations linked with cancer of the pancreas. There is also growing concern about the effects of “gender bender” hormone disrupter chemicals that are feared to be affecting the endocrine system in humans and wildlife which are found in many pesticides. Trace levels of such chemicals are found across the world in food and water, and they can build up and concentrate in the fat of animals including human beings. There are many different health risks caused by pesticide pollution because there are many different chemicals that are used in them. The risk, however, is how much they are actually used. For example, Dursban is the most widely used insecticide. To date, between 15 and 24 million pounds have been used each year, two to four million pounds in the home and garden. One thousand cases of poisoning are reported annually, with such symptoms of nausea, headaches and dizziness. Lack of treatment to these effects could pose long term damage to the nervous system. Too many households are using pesticides too often that it is hard to avoid the health risks. The need for awareness and information on the hazards are vital in order for Toronto to be healthy.

It is very necessary for the citizens of Toronto to be aware of the causes, sources, and hazards of the pollution in our city. In order for this to happen, it is important to put more money into research and development for us to discover where pollution is coming from and how to prevent it, and possibly solve it. However, until then, it is important that Torontonians look at water, air and pesticide pollution as a threat to our health, and something that should be taken seriously.


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