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Small Cut in Air Pollution Could Save Millions, Study Says

Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Page: B5


FRASER VALLEY - A new study of the hidden costs of air pollution in the smog-prone Fraser Valley concludes a one per cent improvement in air quality could save society $29 million annually in direct and indirect health costs.

The study also projects there would be a saving of almost $1.2 billion over a 10-year-period if there was a 10 per cent cut in fine particulate pollution.

Scott McDonald, executive director of the B.C. Lung Association, the non-profit health advocacy group that coordinated the study, said he hopes residents will consider those costs when they decide how to travel around the region.

And he hopes politicians of all stripes will remember those big numbers when they make decisions on issues such as auto emission standards.

"We want air quality to be a priority," McDonald said Tuesday in an interview. "There are a lot of pressures on governments -- whether it's a municipal, regional, provincial or federal government -- and we just want to make sure air quality is valued by decision makers."

Another B.C. Lung Association study released in August found that Prince George is the B.C. city with the highest concentrations of fine particulate pollution -- the tiny smoke particles linked to illnesses such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Valuation of Health Impacts from Air Quality in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed is the title of a more technically worded Lung
Association-coordinated study that was also finished in August but not publicized. The study was written by an environmental consulting company, RWDI AIR Inc., and overseen by representatives of six government agencies, including the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the B.C. Ministry of the Environment and the Greater Vancouver Regional District.

The study used mathematical models and epidemiological studies to estimate the number of health problems that would be triggered by changes in particulate-matter concentrations in the Fraser Valley's mountain-confined airshed.

The study also looked at the costs of ground-level ozone pollution in the region. Ozone pollution, created when auto emissions and other air pollutants chemically react in the atmosphere during sunny days, appears as a dirty brown smudge on the horizon.

A six-page executive summary of the study is part of the 250-plus-page agenda package going to this Friday's monthly meeting of the Greater Vancouver Regional District board.

The GVRD's planning and environment committee is recommending the municipal mayors and councillors vote to receive the report "for information," which means that no specific actions are proposed.

gbohn@png.canwest.com




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