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Doctors Speak Out On Air Quality

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) represents the majority of Canadian physicians and serves as their national voice.

In 2008, they shocked the country with their report called, "No Breathing Room, National Illness Costs of Air Pollution" which reports out on the results of population exposure modeling related to air pollution. The statistics are staggering.

For example, the CMA estimated that 21,000 Canadians would die in 2008 from the effects of air pollution. Most of these lives would be lost due to chronic or long-term exposure to air pollution, but almost 3,000 people would suffer and die from acute short-term exposure. Most of the people dying due to acute exposure would be over 65 and 42% of those deaths would be a result of cardiovascular disease.

In the same year, there would be 92,000 related emergency department visits, 620,000 doctor's office visits, and 11,000 hospital admissions with economic costs topping $8 billion.

By 2031, the CMA estimates that 710,000 Canadians will have died from long-term air pollution exposure and almost 90,000 will have died from the acute effects. Deaths due to chronic exposure are predicted to rise 83% between 2008 and 2031 (without increasing pollution levels). Hospital admissions are expected to increase by 62% and the economic costs will accumulate to over $250 billion.

Although Quebec and Ontario have the largest proportion of acute premature deaths, BC accounts for 10% of the national burden.

Every year in BC there are a few million minor illnesses caused by air pollution, thousands of emergency department visits, over one thousand hospital admissions, and hundreds of acute premature deaths. Although most of these are and will be in the aging baby-boomer category, as the report says, "the loss of a child to a preventable exposure is tragic. Even more tragic is when the future health of a child is irreversibly affected by exposure to air pollution during the early years of life."

The CMA hopes that current and future versions of the Illness Costs of Air Pollution (ICAP) will help policy makers in their discussions and decisions around managing the impact of air pollution.

The full CMA report can be found at: http://www.cma.ca/icap