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Media Release: Air pollution costs Ontario more than $1 billion a year OMA report says

Toronto, June 27, 2000 – Air pollution will cost Ontario’s health-care system and economy more than $1 billion and result in approximately 1,900 deaths this year, reports the Ontario Medical Association.

The Illness Cost of Air Pollution study is based on a revolutionary software program developed by the OMA, which allows researchers for the first time to quantify the costs of air pollution-related illness on the health-care system and in lost work time, in different regions of Ontario. The Illness Cost of Air Pollution is the second study in two years on the effects of air pollution from the association representing Ontario’s 24,000 doctors. It builds on the groundbreaking 1998 Health Effects of Ground Ozone Report and further examines the link between pollution-related illness and premature deaths.

"Two years ago our research established an indisputable link between air pollution and the health of Ontario citizens," says OMA President Dr. Albert Schumacher. "Today we know that approximately 1,900 people will die this year in Ontario alone. By our conservative estimates, the health and economic costs from pollution-related illness is just over $1 billion for Ontario this year."

The OMA’s report shows that air pollution in Ontario this year will lead to 9,800 hospital admissions, 13,000 emergency room visits and 47 million sick days for employees.

The Illness Cost of Air Pollution will further assist in the debate on Ontario’s air quality by providing technically sound and helpful information. This year, the health-care system in Ontario will be saddled with approximately $500 million in costs from hospital admissions and emergency room visits of patients suffering from illness brought on by air pollution. The amount spent on visits to doctors’ offices was not included in the study as definitive data was not available.

The effects of air pollution are also felt by the province’s economy. Pollution-related illness results in lost productivity, which will cost businesses another $500 million this year.

"The costs of poor air quality are extremely high," says OMA’s Executive Director of Health Policy Dr. Ted Boadway. "Air pollution must be reduced. If we can agree on the goals, then doctors, industry, governments and citizens can work together to bring the human and economic costs of air pollution down significantly."

The OMA recommends that the governments of Canada and Ontario advance their action plans on smog to address the human and economic costs of polluted air.

"Our study is a benchmark for measuring improvements in air quality and will allow governments and stakeholders to know what effects pollution reduction targets will have," adds Dr. Schumacher. The ability to account for changing conditions that can effect air quality will allow communities to assess local environmental issues and know what the effects will be for them.

The OMA released its report and the interactive software at a workshop today for provincial medical officers of health, environmentalists, and members of the civil service. The software is available on CD and will be available as of Wednesday from the OMA’s website www.oma.org.

"Clean air enhances the quality of life in Ontario and means a better life for all of us who enjoy the benefits the outdoors provide in this beautiful province," says Roy Schatz, President of the Greater Bay Area Foundation. "Numbers like these show the need for reducing air pollutants, which also effect cottage country."

The OMA’s Illness Cost of Air Pollution workshop was co-sponsored by the Greater Bay Area Foundation and the Muskoka Lakes Association, groups supported by cottagers in the Georgian Bay and Muskoka Lakes areas. The development of this project was supported by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.

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