Breathing Uneasy

Rating: NNNNNConsider it hazardous not to read this: last week the city's health department issued a new report showing.


Rating: NNNNN

Consider it hazardous not to read this: last week the city’s health department issued a new report showing that what we inhale is way, way worse than anyone dreamed. Tolerable limits? Don’t even ask.

THE RAW NUMBERS

Total number of carcinogens in the environment: 383

Number of carcinogens studied in last week’s report: 10

Number exceeding “tolerable” levels: 9

Number thought to cause irreversible mutations in DNA: 5

Number found to be at levels 10 times higher than “tolerable”: 2

Level of pollutants considered cancer-causing: 18 to 46 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre)

Average daily levels measured at monitoring stations in Toronto: 20 to 24 ug/m3

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

Level of harmful contaminants Toronto’s industrial workers are exposed to: 100 to 10,000 times greater than “tolerable”

Percentage of companies that process, manufacture or use more than 10 tonnes of carcinogens per year: 20

Percentage of annual cancer deaths attributable to exposure to workplace carcinogens: 10

Estimated number of workers exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos: about 7,000

ON THE HOME FRONT

Number of carcinogens the study found to be at levels higher than “tolerable” indoors: 5

Level of the carcinogen formaldehyde typically found indoors: 12 times higher than “tolerable”

THE HEALTH FALLOUT

Percentage of new cancer cases associated with factors other than aging: 40

Percentage of cancer deaths associated with factors other than aging: 30

Types of cancers the carcinogens studied have been directly linked to: lymph and blood system, lung, stomach, liver, soft tissue, skin

WHY WE SHOULD BE DOUBLY WORRIED

The data collected don’t take into account greenhouse gas emissions or mobile sources of emissions (like cars and trucks), residential heating or small and medium-sized commercial, industrial and institutional sources.

Environment Canada’s monitoring of carcinogens is spotty, and the risk of exposure is more serious than we know.

Food has been found to be the major pathway of exposure to dioxin in the Great Lakes Basin.

From Ten Key Carcinogens in Toronto Workplaces and Environment: Assessing the Potential for Exposure

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