The Impact of Air Pollution in Physical Health

Urban sprawling came along with various positive changes such as larger property and cheap house prices to Canadians. Currently, approximately over 80 per cent of the Canadian population resides in urban areas such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver among others (Frolick, 4). However, urbanization is associated to diverse, negative impacts to human beings. It has immensely accelerated the rate of deforestation activities that are harming the environment and decreasing green cover. This research analyses the contribution of urban sprawl in overwhelming the daily driving distance and pollution risks in the atmosphere to Canadian health.
Many Canadian suburban areas are usually situated in distant places, making automobiles travel longer distances to access urban facilities (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 67). The increased consumption of gasoline and fuels by automobiles injects primary air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Canadians need to transform from habits that seem to increase air pollution in order to avert the negative impacts linked to it. Experienced automobile drivers anticipate a rise of approximately 300% in hours of delay in the forthcoming 27 years due heavy traffic (Ogilvie, 7). The rate of carbon dioxide emissions is also expected to indicate a 42 per cent increase, which results in more detrimental impacts such as global warming. The ability of air pollutants to travel extremely longer distance further aggravates the impacts over a wider geographical area. According to Public Health and Urban Sprawl in Ontario, the sprawling urban development will result in increased driving and emission of air pollutants (Frolick, 12). The harmful health effects that come along with air pollution are  linked to urban sprawling. The impacts are evident in various disorders such respiratory diseases, reproductive health issues and cardiovascular diseases. Notably, the harmful effects of air pollution on the environment and physical health of human beings are a consequence of unregulated urban growth. Evidence shows that holding on to activities that increase air pollution will accelerate health problems. In relation to this, immediate measures need to be implemented to avert urban sprawl and air pollution. This research also suggests various ways such as public awareness, environmental regulation, and transportation alternatives among others to mitigate urban sprawl.
The mobility of the urban population has been influenced immensely by the capacity and requirements of the motorized urban transport infrastructures such as transit systems or walkways and roads (Pope & Dockery, 77).  Traditionally, mobility within urban cities seemed to be limited to walking. Transformations in urban forms are associated to evolution of transport means. This implies that the far-reaching the transport technology becomes, the intense  the alterations to the urban cities increase. AIDitionally, the transport technology has revolutionized in that it enabled firms to relocate to suburban areas. Initially firms were located in the Central Business District, but with an increase in production costs, these firms resorted to moving to rural places far from urban centers. As a way to evade increased costs, more firms opted to move further and further from urban centers increasing the distance of travel. Most of employees of suburban industries reside in urban centers, which imply that they should travel to and from covering long distances (Pope & Dockery, 56). This increases the use of automobiles and consequently air pollution.
Two processes have a substantial effect on modern urban forms, which in turn affects transport forms. The first process is the dispersed urban land development pattern that is dominant in Canada, where land is abundant. Over the last 50 years, the transport costs in Canada have increased due to the increased tertiary, industrial activities (Frolick, 8). For many Canadian cities, the rate of urbanization was faster than population growth, and under this circumstance; it is not surprising to observe a strong association between urban density and automobile use. Moreover, the low cost of land at the urban periphery provide an incentive to households to purchase land and low priced houses hence increasing automobile use. The second process that has affected urban forms the decentralization of activities. This process resulted in longer distances increasing fuel consumption to cover for the distances. As a result, many roads were developed to linked suburbs and cities, instead of linking suburb to suburb (Pope & Dockery, 67). This resulted in road congestion and increased air pollution. in order to reduce the extreme effects of urban sprawl, the Growth Management Plan aims at building more cities as provincial legislation.
Automobile Emissions
Transportation contributes to approximately half of the amount of carbon monoxide, third of nitrogen oxides and quarter of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere (Frolick, 6). The increased number of automobiles and distance exposes human to smoggy skies and unpurified air. The emissions produced by motor vehicle vary widely in their effects and nature. They are produced during vehicle operations, manufacturing, refueling and disposal. Other emissions are linked to refining and distribution of automobile fuels. It has been observed that automobiles cause both primary and secondary air pollution (Ogilvie, 89). Primary pollution by vehicles is witnessed when vehicles directly emit harmful gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, secondary pollution is witnessed when motor vehicle emissions react chemically with other atmospheric pollutants. The various emissions include particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide, hazardous or toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Particulate matters are small particles of soot and metals, which darkens smog. Particulate matters are light with a diameter of approximately one-tenth of human hair, which makes them pose a sever risk to human health. Their size enables them to infiltrate deeper into respiratory organs such as lungs. Hydrocarbon emissions react chemically with nitrogen oxides. Sunlight catalyzes the reaction to producing low-level ozone, which is a primary constituent of smog (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 89). Ozone is beneficial at higher altitudes, but irritates the human respiratory system by causing choking, decreased lung capacity and coughing. Nitrogen oxides results from extremely exceedingly high temperature combustion of automobile fuels such as coal, oil and gas. These oxides are harmful, and cause lung irritation and deteriorate the human body defenses against respiratory diseases, which include influenza and pneumonia. As mentioned above, they also facilitate the formation of low-level ozone and particulate matter.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and extremely poisonous emission that is formed by burning of automobile fuels such as gasoline. This pollutant is substantially produced by trucks and cars. Carbon monoxide has diverse effects on physical health of human beings, which includes deterring oxygen transportation to various parts of the body (Ogilvie, 78). The most susceptible individuals to effects carbon monoxide are fetuses, people with chronic illnesses including children. Sulfur dioxide is another pollutant produced when sulfur fuels such as diesel are combusted. It leads to secondary pollution by reacting with other pollutants in the atmosphere, forming extremely light particle. The particles pose a threat to the health of asthmatics including children.
Hazardous air pollutants or simply toxics are chemical substances that are produced by cars, trucks, refineries, gas pumps and other industrial sources (Frolick, 8). These toxics cause cancer, birth defects and other severe diseases. According to Environmental Protection Agency, toxics from vehicles account for approximately half of cancer prevalence. Examples of toxic emissions include benzene and acetaldehyde. Automobiles also emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, that results in global warming that poses health risks. Global warming increases the normal earth temperatures, which in turn results in skin cancer (Frolick, 7).
Health Effects of Traffic Pollution
Various health effects such as increased mortality and diverse health effects are related to automobile emissions. Traffic-associated pollutants lead to increased mortality rate, especially from cardiopulmonary and respiratory causes (Frolick, 7). Other two Canadian researches confirmed that the daily variations in the emission of air pollutants affected mortality in 11 urban cities from 1980 to 1991 (Ogilvie, 67). The effect of automobile air pollutants was also observed in other 12 cities from 1981 to 1999. The variations in nitrogen oxide concentration, in the atmosphere, cause fluctuations in the daily mortality rates. These studies indicate that mitigating traffic-related pollution can significantly reduce the mortality rate in Canada and other parts of the world.
Respiratory effects are the most researched and commonly reported health effect of traffic-related pollution (Frolick, 8). Health professionals have associated various symptoms such as coughing and wheezing with automobile emissions. Other severe conditions related to air pollution include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. COPD further includes other chronic illnesses such bronchitis and emphysema (Ogilvie, 78). Exposure to particulate matter and ozone causes the above chronic conditions. Nitrogen oxides are more likely to cause coughing, though; it is ambiguous to affirm that it indicates traffic related pollution. Other studies claimed that air pollutants resulting from traffic contribute significantly to sneezing and or stuffed nose. Residing near busy streets induces or aggravates asthma and bronchitis symptoms such as phlegm and regular coughing as asserted by the Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution.
Cardiovascular diseases are also effects of traffic-associated pollution. Enough evidences are available to support the association between cardiovascular disease and automobile emissions (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 79). Nonfatal cardiovascular effects such as myocardial infarction (AMI) result from long-term exposure to particulate matter and living near busy roads. Emergency health departments have recorded high number of visits by stroke patients due to extreme amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Systematic inflammation atherosclerosis and cardiac autonomic function indicated by variations in heartbeat prove the association between PM exposure and cardiovascular disease (Frolick, 6).
Cancer is another health effect caused by air pollution. Various researches are attempting to establish the association between automobile emissions and cancer development (Ogilvie, 60). The researchers claimed that the prevalence of cancer development is high among people living near heavy traffic roads due to exposure to nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide. The effects of traffic-associated pollutions on leukemia are also raising concern. The high prevalence of leukemia, childhood cancer, in areas close to heavy traffic roads is an evidence to confirm the relationship between traffic-associated pollutions and childhood cancer. Information regarding the relationship between traffic-related pollution and other cancers is limited, but early susceptibility to automobile emissions might cause breast cancer in women. Ovarian cancer was also diagnosed in women who were occupationally exposed to gasoline exhaust (Frolick, 8).
Hormonal and reproductive effects are caused by traffic-related pollution. A research claims that air pollutants affect fertility in men. Studies revealed that the sperm quality of men working close to busy roads was observed to be poor. This is because of exposure to nitrogen oxide and lead. Automobile pollution also causes increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Low birth weight in infants is associated to maternal exposure to automobile emissions.
Statistics and Facts of Air Pollution
Automobiles are the main polluters of air in Canada by injecting sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases (Frolick, 7). These air pollutants are produced through combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel, gasoline, oil, natural gas, coal or wood. In Toronto, these pollutants originate from commercial and industrial operations, space heating of buildings and vehicles. Particulate matter (PM) is measured in terms of total suspended particles (TSP), inhalable particles of 10 micron diameter  (PM10) and (PM2.5) for particles that can be respired. The table below shows the statistics of serious air pollutants in Toronto, which is an urban city in Canada (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 68).
Source; Bray, R, C Vakil & D Elliot. Report on Public Health and Urban Sprawl in Ontario. Ontario: Environmental Health Committee, 2005.
Mobile sources exclude trains. Area sources refer to residential and small-scale industries. Point sources are industrial emitters that are reportable to NPRI.
From this table, vehicles are the main emitters of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Automobiles produce 85% of the total carbon monoxide and 69% of nitrogen in the atmosphere (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 69).
The table below shows emissions of greenhouse gases because of Toronto activities in 2005 (Ogilvie, 79). The emissions are expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (eCO2) since it is possible to apply a uniform measure to sum Global Warming Potential (GWP).
Source; Bray, R, C Vakil & D Elliot. Report on Public Health and Urban Sprawl in Ontario. Ontario: Environmental Health Committee, 2005.
Automobiles in the transportation sector produce 35% of the total greenhouse gas (Frolick, 6). Vehicles contribute the largest portion of the total greenhouse gases. Personal vehicles and transport trucks produce approximately 75% and 25% respectively. Emission of greenhouse gases has been escalating at an alarming rate from 1990 to 2010 due increased number of motor vehicles and industrial activities.
Controlling Air Pollution
Various provincial regulations are used to avert air pollution and its resultant effects. The British Columbia government has ratified various pollution laws to reduce pollution. The provincial air quality law is contained in the British Columbia’s environmental management Act. According to this Act, pollution is defined as the presence of contaminant substances in the environment, which hampers the worth of the environment (Frolick, 7). Federal air quality law is another provincial regulation embodied in Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA). This law authorizes the department of transport to regulate ship traffic. As a result, the department can stop the operation of any ship emitting toxic air pollutants. Another provincial legislation is the Ontario Greenbelt Act that was assented in 2005. The act implementation of the act immediately halted development process in Greater Golden Horseshoe (Frolick, 7). This mitigated urban sprawl that would have generated more air pollution problems.
Public awareness of pollution and its consequences is beneficial in reducing pollution. The public has a role to play in reducing pollution, which can be achieved by making them aware (Bray, Vakil & Elliot, 89). Families using pollutant fuels should be encouraged to shift to alternative and environmental friendly sources such as electricity. In other words, creating public awareness involves instilling knowledge in people about pollution and its effects. People need to change their lifestyle by driving less and making wise consumer decisions. In order to minimize the prevalence of air-polluted diseases, the public needs to carry over strenuous outdoor activities.
Using alternative forms of transport that are environmental friendly can significantly reduce air pollution (Pope & Dockery, 89). Alternative forms include cycling, walking and using public passenger vehicle. Cycling consumes no fuel and has no harmful emissions, which is similar to walking. Public passenger vehicles carry many people saving on fuel use. This reduces reliance on personal vehicles that are currently the leading air pollutants. In aIDition, carpooling is another alternative that can be used by employees.  This will reduce traffic and consequently air pollution. People travelling distances should be encouraged to use electric trains where possible to minimize emission of toxic gases.
In conclusion, transportation contributes to approximately half of the amount of carbon monoxide, third of nitrogen oxides and quarter of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere. Traffic-associated pollutants lead to increased mortality rate, especially from cardiopulmonary and respiratory causes. Respiratory effects are the most researched and commonly reported health effect of traffic-related pollution. Automobiles are the main polluters of air in Canada by injecting sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases. The public has a role to play in reducing pollution, which can be achieved by making them aware. Using alternative forms of transport that are environmental friendly can significantly reduce air pollution.
Works Cited
Bray, R, C Vakil & D Elliot. Report on Public Health and Urban Sprawl in Ontario. Ontario: Environmental Health Committee, 2005.
Frolick, Larry. “Suburbia’s Last Stand.” The Walrus (2005): 3-11.
Ogilvie, K. Air, Water and Soil quality. Toronto: Neptis Foundation, 2003.
Pope, C & D Dockery. “Health effects of fine particulate air: lines that connect.” Journal ofAir and Waste management Association (2006): 709-742.