Real Costs of Air Pollution in the CRAZ Region
Human caused air pollution has real and significant costs to human health and the economy however these impacts are often difficult to quantify. Fortunately, Health Canada has developed a modelling tool called the Air Quality Benefits Assessment Tool (AQBAT) that can be used to estimate the impacts of ambient air quality on human health and the associated economic costs.
Recently, Health Canada used AQBAT to estimate the morbidity (illness, disease or lack of health) and premature mortality outcomes resulting from human caused air pollution in Canada. This was done by determining the health and economic impacts resulting from exposure to current ambient air quality conditions and comparing them to the health and economic impacts under baseline (natural) conditions. The difference in the impacts was attributed to human caused air pollution. Results were calculated for each of the Census Divisions across Canada.
CRAZ reached out to Health Canada and obtained the results specific to the four Census Divisions (CDs) that have areas within the CRAZ boundaries: CD 6 (Calgary), CD 5 (east of Calgary), CD 3 (south of Calgary) and CD 15 (west of Calgary). When we refer to the “CRAZ Region*” in this post, we are referring to the combined results for each of these CDs. The CDs relative to the CRAZ boundaries is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The CDs used to represent the CRAZ Region.
The results obtained shed some light on the costs of human caused air pollution including costs to both the economy and human health. These results indicate that by reducing ambient air pollution in the CRAZ region, we can expect to see less adverse human health outcomes and significant cost savings.
Restricted Activity Days
Restricted activity days, are the number of days in which people cut down on their usual activity (e.g. work or school) due to illness or injury.
According to the Health Canada study, human caused air pollution the CRAZ Region* results in approximately 490,855 restricted activity days per year. This means that each person experiences, on average, 3 restricted activity days per year due to human-caused air pollution.
Reducing air pollution in the CRAZ region to background levels would reduce time spent at home sick, and save $28.3 million in economic losses
Acute Respiratory and Asthma Symptom Days
Acute respiratory and asthma symptom days are days in which people with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) experience symptoms resulting from poor air quality.
According to the Health Canada study, human caused air pollution in the CRAZ Region* results in approximately 1,359,669 acute respiratory and asthma symptom days a year. Using the Statistics Canada estimates that approximately 9% of the Canadian population is affected by asthma or COPD1, this suggests that approximately 146,883 people in the CRAZ Region with respiratory diseases experience, on average, 9 symptom days per year resulting from exposure to human-caused air pollution.
Reducing air pollution in the CRAZ region to background levels would reduce the number of acute respiratory and asthma symptom days per year, and save $21.7 million in economic losses
Chronic and Acute Bronchitis Cases/Episodes
Bronchitis is a condition that falls between the common cold and pneumonia and causes inflammation of the lungs resulting in coughing, shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Bronchitis can be either chronic or acute. Acute bronchitis is similar to a chest cold and usually improves within a week to ten days. Chronic bronchitis is more serious and persists for months to years.
Human caused air pollution in the CRAZ Region* contributes to approximately 254 adult chronic bronchitis cases every year. In addition, it contributes to an estimated 1,259 child acute bronchitis episodes every year.
Reducing air pollution in the CRAZ region to background levels would save the healthcare system about $110 million per year
Hospital Emergency Room Visits and Admissions
Human-caused air pollution in the CRAZ Region* also contributes to approximately 234 emergency room visits and 57 hospital admissions every year.
Reducing air pollution in the CRAZ region to background levels would save the healthcare system about $720,000 per year
Human-caused air pollution in the CRAZ Region* results in approximately 377 deaths every year. That’s equivalent to about 23 out of every 100,000 people experiencing premature mortality due to air quality.
Reducing air pollution in the CRAZ Region* to background levels would save $2.78 billion dollars a year based on the estimated $6.5 million cost of a human life
Reducing Air Pollution to Improve Wellbeing, Save Lives and Save Money
In total, reducing air pollution in the CRAZ Region* would result in fewer restricted activity days, respiratory and asthma symptom days, bronchitis cases, hospital visits and premature deaths and save an estimated $2.94 billion in economic losses and healthcare costs!
So, what can we do to reduce air pollution?
Here are some ideas:
- Walk, take transit or carpool if possible.
- Keep your tires inflated and remove heavy, unnecessary items from your vehicle.
- Avoid idling as much as possible.
- Reduce the use of backyard fire pits and backyard burning.
- Avoid the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment as much as possible.
- Use energy efficient appliances at home.
These actions also contribute to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Together we can make a real difference!