Facts about Air Pollution and Children’s Health

Air becomes polluted when it is filled with gases and particles that are hazardous to human health or the environment[1].  Air pollution can be affected by many regional and global factors, and is highly influenced by local topography, weather, and proximity to sources[1].  Listed below are some important facts and statistics about air pollution, health, and how they relate to proposed industrial activity in close proximity to children.

  1. Children inhale more pollution per kg of body weight than adults[2].  The Canadian Public Health Association says that young children, on a per body weight basis, tend to inhale relatively more air than adults.  Their lower proximity to the ground, their tendency to be open-mouth breathers while running and playing (hence, the nose is not being used as a filter), as well as their elevated metabolic rate make them more susceptible to air pollution.
  2. Long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to impaired lung development in children, increased incidence and exacerbation of asthma, pre-term births, low birth weight babies and otitis media in children[1].
  3. Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and is considered the leading driver of children’s healthcare costs at over $2 billion per year [3].  A conservative estimate developed by the Conference Board of Canada suggests that without concerted action, the cost of asthma alone will rise to $4.2 billion by 2030.
  4. Approximately 5200 children attend public schools within 8 km of the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine site[4].  Fugitive dust travels outside mine boundaries and can be deposited 8 km away from source of origin (and further for very fine particulate matter)[5,6].  The following Kamloops schools (with 2011 student enrolment in brackets) are within 8 km of the proposed site:
    Pacific Way Elementary (270)
    Aberdeen Elementary (367)
    Sahali Secondary (823)
    Dufferin Elementary (331)
    McGowan Elementary (273)
    South Kamloops Secondary (1462)
    Summit Elementary (305)
    South Sahali Elementary (326)
    Ecole Lloyd George (426)
    Stuart Wood Elementary (204)
    Beattie School of Arts (412)
  5. As PM2.5 levels rise in a community, so does the rate of mortality[7].  The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates a 10% increase in mortality for every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter < 2.5 micrometers in size).  In 2010, the AHA confirmed a causal relationship between short and long term exposure to particulate matter air pollution and cardiovascular disease.  In January 2013, the level of PM2.5 in Kamloops rose high enough to issue a health advisory.
  6. Diesel exhaust is now a known carcinogen[8].  As of June, 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) upgraded diesel fuel exhaust to a Group 1 or “known carcinogen to humans” based on sufficient evidence that exposure is linked to lung cancer.  The proposed Ajax open-pit mine operation is estimated to burn tens of thousands of litres of diesel fuel per day, which would be upwind and within 2km of Aberdeen and Pacific Way Elementary schools and surrounding neighbourhoods.  This, together with the daily use of explosives, certainly warrants concern for our children’s health.
  7. 84% of Kamloops doctors who responded to a recent survey about the proposed open-pit Ajax mine are concerned about potential health impacts of the mine[9].  Moreover, 54 doctors (nearly a third of respondents), indicated they “definitely or probably” would “move if Ajax is approved and built”.  The loss of this many doctors will be a problem for children’s health in Kamloops, when thousands of residents are already without a family physician.

Further Resources

For more information, please visit the links below:

www.airhealthbc.ca is part of the national Air Quality Health Index project supported in BC by the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the BC Lung Association.

Outdoor Air Quality – A Primer for B.C. Physicians and resource for informing patients http://www.bc.lung.ca/airquality/documents/AirQualityPhysiciansPrimerSP.pdf

B.C. Lung Association
www.bc.lung.ca

Utah Moms for Clean Air
www.utahmomsforcleanair.org

Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment
http://www.uphe.org/

Canadian Public Health Association
http://www.cpha.ca/uploads/progs/env/rdrp_asthma_e.pdf

References:

  1. BC Lung Association (http://www.bc.lung.ca/airquality/documents/AirQualityPhysiciansPrimerSP.pdf)
  2. Canadian Public Health Association (http://www.cpha.ca/uploads/progs/env/rdrp_asthma_e.pdf)
  3. Asthma Society of Canada (http://www.asthma.ca/adults/about/asthma_facts_and_statistics.pdf)
  4. K to 12 Education by numbers 2011 enrolment data (http://www.kto12.ca)
  5. Petavratzi, E., S. Kingman, I. Lowndes. 2005. Particulates from mining operations: A review of sources, effects and regulations. Minerals Engineering (18): 1183–1199.
  6. Cattle, S.R. et al. 2012. Distinguishing and characterising point-source mining dust and diffuse-source dust deposits in a semi-arid district of eastern Australia. Aeolian Research (6): 21–29.
  7. Brook, R.D. et al. 2010. Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease: An Update to the Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation (121):2331-2378.
  8. International Agency for Research on Cancer (http://new.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6985&Itemid=1926)
  9. Kamloops Daily News, November 20th 2012