January 19, 2017 - Toronto, ON/- One. That's the number of smog days Ontario has experienced since
the last piece of coal was burned for electricity in 2014.
Let's compare that to 2005, when residents of the Greater Toronto Area suffered
through 53 smog days while coal, with its toxic emissions, provided 19 per cent
of the province's power.
From this fact alone, it's obvious shutting Ontario's coal plants has helped clean
the province's air and given a new lease on life to millions who suffer with asthma.
Just a few years ago, people of all ages became prisoners in their own homes on
hot summer days. They feared for their health when smothering, polluted air descended
upon their city. Today, they enjoy a better quality of life outdoors with a much
lower risk of an asthma attack or a trip to the emergency room.
Despite what the Fraser Institute said in a report earlier this week, Ontario is
indisputably a healthier place to live, work and play since coal was phased out.
In fact, this positive action by the provincial government has resulted in an 87
per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector when
compared to 2005. From the Ontario Ministry of Energy's report on The End of Coal
(2015), other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and mercury
emissions have also seen major reductions, further decreasing incidences of asthma
exacerbations related to air quality.
The province has managed to reduce these toxins from our air while maintaining the
reliability of our electricity sector through the increased use of carbon-free options
such as nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables, which are supported by natural gas.
The fact remains, Ontario cities have not been enveloped in smog on hot summer days
since coal was eliminated.
How can such an obvious improvement in air quality simply be discounted? Clean air
is vital to the health of all Canadians. The Asthma Society of Canada works with
hundreds of people who have been rushed to the emergency room, admitted to hospital,
been treated for illnesses, visited their doctor and, unfortunately, even died during
times of heavily polluted air, most often in the form of summer smog. This places
an incredible drain on the health care system, while the emotional impacts on asthma
and allergy sufferers and their families is incalculable. Since coal was phased
out in Ontario, the quality of life for millions of people who live with asthma
and allergies has increased exponentially.
The Government of Ontario did the right thing when it shut down its coal-fired electricity
plants. The one summer smog day since, as well as the improved health of the people
who used to fight for breath on those hot days, is proof enough. We are encouraged
to see a commitment to the phase out of coal being adopted across the country so
all Canadians can breathe easy.
Vanessa Foran is the President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada, which is
dedicated to helping Canadians live with asthma through research and education.
Learn more at www.asthma.ca.