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More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to poor air quality levels that exceed the safe World Health Organization (WHO) Standards.  A declining air quality is associated with a host of health problems, including risk of stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, allergies and asthma. It is also linked to approximately 6.5 million deaths annually across the world. While some countries follow the WHO standards for air quality, there are also countries like India that have developed their own, more ambitious national ambient air quality standards for various air pollutants. Unfortunately, India does not meet its own country’s safe standards. 

The majority of the world population is exposed to air pollution and major global cities are significantly affected by its presence; the cities of Zabol, Iran, New Delhi and Gwalior, India, and Beijing, China have all been listed as having some of the worst air qualities in the world. Particles like black carbon also are significantly responsible for the warming experienced in the world. Therefore, air pollution is increasingly seen as a dual threat to the environment and public health across the world.

In Canada, according to the November 2017 Health Canada report(“Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada”), approximately 14,000 premature deaths can be linked to air pollution. It has costed Canada $36 billion due to illnesses and premature deaths. The Government has stated that even though Canada currently has relatively lower levels of air pollution compared to levels in other countries, addressing air pollution remains a priority for the government.

Experts around the world are calling on their respective governments to do more to reduce air pollution through stricter policy interventions. Conversely, there are critics who argue that policies around air quality are arbitrary in targeting specific health benefits; not enough considerations are given to the various hidden costs associated with air pollution.

To help us tackle these issues and take the policy discussion forward, we are joined by Dr. Chung Wai Chow, a lung transplant physician and  Professor at University of Toronto,  and Dr. Ross McKitrick, Economics Professor at University of Guelph and a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute.

“Although, we live in a country with […] very good air quality, we are very much impacted by air pollution” – Dr. Chung-Wai Chow, lung transplant physician at University Health Network, and Professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Dr. Chung-Wai Chow is a lung transplant physician at University Health Network. She is a researcher at the Toronto General Research Institute, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and a clinician-scientist at the Department of Medicine at University of Toronto. She is a Director of Biotox Laboratory at Canada Aerosol Research Network. Dr. Chow’s research interests include Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Musculoskeletal areas. Additionally, she is also a Science Ambassador at Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. [Interview at 3.21]

“There is clearly an association between exposure to air pollution and worsening of lung function and worsening of lung disease” – Dr. Chung Wai-Chow, lung transplant physician at University Health Network, and Professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics and a CBE Fellow in Sustainable Commerce at the University of Guelph. He is a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute and is widely published and cited on the economics of pollution, climate change and public policy. He has also worked collaboratively across a wide range of topics in the physical sciences. He is a sought-after guest speaker around the world, and makes appearances on various news outlets discussing issues in environment, energy and climate policy. His research has been featured in many prominent outlets including the The New York Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal. [Interview at 29.21]

“On a typical day in a Canadian city, you won’t really experience the kind of bad air that you would have experienced in say the 1960’s…We don’t have the same nuisance of air quality and we don’t have the same issues around the air just being toxic and dangerous. ” – Ross McKitrick, Professor at the University of Guelph and Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute

Credits

Shirin Bithal, Junior Producer, Host
Nuri Kim, Junior Producer, Technical Producer
Mary Shin, Technical Producer
Ian T. D. Thomson
Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead 
by Fine Times
Can’t Leave the Night by Badbadnotgood
We Find Love
 by Daniel Caesar