WATERLOO, Ont. (Wednesday,
Feb. 7, 2007) -- A University of Waterloo-based research network
says scientific evidence of the effects of air pollution on
human health and the environment is clear enough to support
global efforts to continue reducing outdoor levels.
The Network for Risk Assessment and Management (NERAM) has
developed with international experts a 12-point plan -- parts
of which have been adopted in Europe -- to fight air pollution
and improve public health. The plan, a policy guidance document
on air quality management for local, regional and national
policy-makers, is the result of a five-year NERAM colloquium
"It is now universally recognized that poor air quality
has adverse impacts on human health and research confirms
that residents in Southern Ontario and other parts of Canada
are exposed to levels of air pollutants associated with morbidity
and mortality," says UW professor emeritus John Shortreed,
executive director of both NERAM and UW's Institute for Risk
"The University of Waterloo has done five years of work
in translating research from around the world for use in policies
to improve health. We are ready to battle the No. 1 environmental
killer -- air pollution."
The plan reflects the latest thinking of policy-makers and
health researchers from around the world. The fifth and final
colloquium was held in October in Vancouver.
Research shows that both short-term and long-term exposures
to particulate matter and other air pollutants are statistically
associated with serious human health effects, including premature
death, heart-and breathing-related hospital admissions and
emergency room visits, together with a worsening of asthma
"Scientific evidence of the effects of air pollutant
exposure on human health and on the environment is strong
enough to justify global efforts to continue to reduce outdoor
concentrations, even in locations that meet air pollutant
standards," Shortreed says.
He adds that Europe and Britain are already implementing
the interim policies proposed by the NERAM colloquium series
held in Rome in 2003 and in Mexico in 2005 to deal with hot
spots, such as high traffic areas in cities like Toronto.
"They are using an innovative approach to regulations
that actually allow some locations to exceed air quality standards,
while imposing area-wide reductions that have many more health
benefits -- the result is more health outcomes for existing
Shortreed says that air pollution typically causes a white,
yellow or brown haze that reduces visual range, affecting
people's ability to enjoy their surroundings. In places like
Hong Kong, for instance, the impaired visibility caused by
haze or smog is used as a means to show the public the link
between high air pollution concentrations and increased health
Topics covered in the NERAM document include air quality
and human health, emission inventories, air quality management
approaches and evidence of effectiveness, as well as challenges
and opportunities in air quality management. The document
can be viewed at http://www.irr-neram.ca
The plan includes the following strategic policy directions
for air quality management:
* Communication of health effects is key to increasing public
awareness and demand for air quality management policies.
* Increase awareness of linkages between air quality and
* Cross-sectoral policies in energy, environment, climate,
transport, agriculture and health.
* Exposure reduction and continuous improvement policies are
important extensions to ambient air quality standards.
* Reducing exposure to combustion-generated particles should
be a priority, such fossil fuels and biomass.
* Evidence is sufficient to justify policies to reduce traffic
* Prioritize pollutants and sources based on the potential
* Policies focused on improving visibility may gain greater
support than those focused solely on health.
* International harmonization of measurements and metrics,
emission inventories, modelling tools, assessment of health
effects literature and health-related guidelines.
* More research on toxicity-determining characteristics of
particulate matter and more evaluation of local, regional
and global policies.
Shortreed says there are many epidemiological (human population)
studies carried out in North America and Europe that have
demonstrated statistically significant ties between ambient
levels of particulate matter and other air pollutants and
a variety of human health problems, including death and hospital
admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
NERAM has already started a regional initiative in the Greater
Toronto Area along with Pollution Probe to apply some of the
research results in order to tackle the thousands of premature
deaths every year in Ontario.
The main goal of NERAM is to integrate the scientific knowledge
and expertise that exists across many diverse disciplines
in Canada, thereby providing a comprehensive approach to environmental
risk assessment and risk management. As a result, there will
be more effective and efficient environmental protection practices.
Introduction to Colloquium
Series (Powerpoint Presentation)
Guidance Documents and Presentation
John Shortreed, NERAM, 519-885-4027 or email@example.com
Lorraine Craig, NERAM, 519-579-6022 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Quentin Chiotti, Pollution Probe, 416-926-1907 or email@example.com
John Morris, UW media relations, 519-888-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org