municipalities that invest in cleaning up the environment will see the
benefit in lower health-care costs.
those areas which are more polluted will have higher health-care costs.
the conclusions of a provocative study led by Michael Jerrett, a medical
geographer with McMaster University's Institute of Environment and Health.
what many people feel intuitively after the Walkerton crisis. Environmental
pollution negatively affects our health-care system," Jerrett said.
is the first in Canada to examine the link between pollution and health-care
costs. It recently appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community
Health. Jerrett is presenting a paper relating to his research at an
international conference this week in England.
fellow McMaster university researchers John Eyles and Stephen Birch
and University of Waterloo researcher Christian Dufournaud examined
data on toxic pollution reported by industries to Environment Canada
and all hospital and OHIP billings.
covered areas such as surgeries, asthma, and cancer treatments.
pulled data from the 1991 census. The researchers divided the province
into 49 areas and also examined spending on environmental protection.
said the study, which took 10 years to complete, also removed several
other factors which can affect health-care costs such as the levels
of education, income and whether or not residents worked in a factory,
the amount of toxic pollution output is just above average at about
1,400 tonnes each year.
costs at an average of $606 a person annually are higher than the provincial
said the study looks at only the volume of pollutants, not the toxicity
of pollutants that must be reported to Environment Canada.
Hamilton's best-known pollutants, such as benzene, and dioxin, are among
said most of the spending made in defence of the environment in the
province is done through municipalities, particularly local public health
units on such things as sewer and water works, waste management, emergency
planning and recreational facilities.
an environmental lobbyist based in Hamilton, sees the study as ammunition
for the fight to improve the environment.
even have a clear sense of the real health-care costs of poor air quality.
You would assume that in the city of Hamilton you would find that there
would be at least one person who is devoted to looking at the impacts
of industrial pollution, and the impact on our air quality. There is
no one person," she said.
Councillor Marvin Caplan said many factors affect health.
study could lead us to think about is the health of the people in the
community. You have to also think about their income, their education
... You can't make steel with zero pollution."
public health is under great pressures with shrinking budgets.
an old, industrial city. We have some of the tools. With a little bit
of help we are set to make a huge recovery. John Eyles (at McMaster
University's Institute of Environment and Health) and his colleagues
are not in favour of transportation routes (because of their effects
on air pollution) but transportation is the way to move goods and services.
How do you find a balance?"
said his study uses data from the early 1990s, and there have been profound
funding changes in environmental protection since then.
seeing in essence a government which is maintaining health-care expenditure
but cutting other areas to do so and that will put more pressure on
the health-care system. ... When the stakes are high and in Ontario
at least 42 per cent of the budget is devoted to health care ... it
would be nice to say we have strong evidence to make those decisions
about how to spend that money."