The Big Three Fuel the Air Pollution and Health Debate: Major Canadian health groups launch new campaign on environmental health

    TORONTO, March 6 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian
Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada today announced
a new joint effort to increase public attention and political action on
environmental health hazards.
    "We know that Canadians are very concerned about the impact of our
environment on their health, both now and in the future," says Sally Brown,
CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "There are definitely
achievable goals and concrete actions individuals and governments can take to
support a healthier environment."
    The coalition called on Parliament to strike a joint committee of the
health and environment committees to study this critical issue and make
recommendations to improve the quality of life of Canadians.
    "Our three organizations have joined together to tackle key environmental
issues that have a significant impact on human health," says Nora Sobolov,
president and CEO of The Lung Association. "We call on all parties and
legislators to work together towards a healthier environment for all
    The joint review would complement the commitment made in Budget 2008 to
expand the Canadian Health Measures Survey to assess the links between
environmental contaminants and the risk of illness.

    While Ottawa contemplates this proposal, the health charities have
focused their attention on two key issues:

    - Community Right to Know
    - Air Quality

    Action to Ensure the Community Right to Know

    Canadians need accurate, timely information on environmental hazards that
may affect their health - for example toxic or carcinogenic substances in the
products they use, the food they eat and the air they breathe.
    It is difficult for people to find out about toxic chemicals in their
neighbourhoods, workplaces and homes. The majority of products we use and come
in contact with do not disclose their contents. And comprehensive information
about air quality is not easily accessible to citizens.

    The three organizations call on government to:

    - Extend regulatory requirements for ingredient labeling to all products
      for human use, with clear, highly visible identification of toxic or
      carcinogenic substances

    - Roll out across the country a national Air Quality Health Index (AQHI),
      building on current pilot projects, to give Canadians in all parts of
      the country easy-to-understand information daily on air quality, along
      with clear recommendations for action to limit exposure to health
      threatening conditions.

    Action on Air Quality

    Air pollution presents a serious and growing threat to the health of
Canadians, especially people suffering from respiratory illness, heart
ailments and other chronic diseases. A recent Health Canada study estimated
that air pollution leads to 5,900 premature deaths annually in eight large
Canadian cities. In Ontario alone poor air quality causes an estimated
17,000 hospital admissions and 60,000 emergency room visits annually,
according to a 2005 study for the Ontario Medical Association.
    The resulting economic cost is also high. The overall losses associated
with air pollution across the country are estimated at over $20 billion
annually, including direct health care costs and indirect costs related to
reduced productivity, lost work time and untimely deaths.

    The coalition calls on government to:

    - Strengthen federal legislation and regulations on air quality. The
      federal government's move to introduce regulations under the Canadian
      Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) limiting industrial emissions is a
      step in the right direction. But much more is needed, including
      National Air Quality Standards to ensure that emissions controls
      actually result in cleaner air, regulatory restrictions on substances
      contributing to indoor air hazards, and greatly higher automobile
      emissions standards, equivalent to the most stringent in North America.

    - Fund public awareness and incentive programs to encourage consumer and
      industry action to reduce air pollution and mitigate air quality
      hazards, e.g., programs for increased conservation awareness, energy-
      saving retrofits on multi-unit residential buildings, and radon

    - Increase dedicated federal investments in public transit in urban
      centres across the country. Allocation of at least 7% of federal
      transportation infrastructure funds to active transportation
      infrastructure; e.g., bike paths, walking trails and sidewalks.

    "Together, we are working to create conditions in which Canadians are
empowered to protect their own health, and ensure that their elected
representatives create policies that will give us cleaner air and water, and a
safer, healthier environment," says Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian
Cancer Society.

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of
volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of
life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer,
visit our website at or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer
Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

    Established in 1900, The Canadian Lung Association ( is one
of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading
national organization for science-based information, research, education,
support programs and advocacy on lung health issues.

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (, a
volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke
and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its
application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For further information:

For further information: Alexa Giorgi, Canadian Cancer Society, (416)
934-5681,; Cameron Bishop, The Canadian Lung Association,
(613) 569-6411 ext. 223,; Jane-Diane Fraser, Heart and Stroke
Foundation, (613) 569-4361 ext. 273,

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