study examines links between pollution and poverty in Great Lakes basin
The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) is
a non-profit, public interest organization established in 1970 to use
existing laws to protect the environment and to advocate environmental
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Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We
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People living in poverty in the Great Lakes basin may be experiencing
an increased burden of high air pollution from industrial facilities in
their communities, says a new study released by the Canadian
Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence through the
groups' PollutionWatch project.
The study, An Examination of Pollution and Poverty in the Great
Lakes Basin, found 37 communities, known as census subdivisions,
in the Great Lakes basin have high poverty rates at or above the
national average (11.8%) and high releases of toxic air pollutants
(over 100,000 kg) from industrial facilities. In Ontario, these
communities include: Sault St. Marie, Espanola, Windsor, London,
Hamilton and Toronto. In Québec, these communities include: Montréal,
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Trois Rivières, Drummondville and
Rouyn-Noranda. For a full list of communities, download the Great Lakes
Summary Fact Sheet from the PollutionWatch
"This is one of the first studies in Canada to investigate the
relationship between pollution and poverty in the Great Lakes basin. It
shows that large amounts of pollution are still released in the Great
Lakes basin, that some areas have higher pollution releases than
others, and that some areas have a double challenge of high pollution
releases and high poverty rates," said Fe de Leon, researcher at the
Canadian Environmental Law Association. "Future research and policy
decisions to reduce pollution and poverty in the Great Lakes basin
should take account of the findings of this study."
The PollutionWatch study mapped air release data of toxic pollutants
and criteria air contaminants from the federal government's National
Pollutant Release Inventory (2005 data), and income data from
Statistics Canada (2001 Statistics Canada Census) to explore whether
areas in the Great Lakes basin with high air releases also have high
percentages of people living in poverty. While some communities did
have high levels of both air releases (i.e. air toxic pollutants and
criteria air contaminants) and poverty, the study found that some areas
with very high releases had low poverty, and some areas with very high
poverty had low releases.
The study also examined the relationship between pollution and poverty
at the neighbourhood level in the City of Toronto, providing detailed
information of how the two may be related on a much smaller geographic
scale. Similar to the Great Lakes basin as a whole, the releases of air
pollutants from industrial facilities and poverty rates vary across
Toronto, with some neighbourhoods facing a double challenge of high
poverty rates and high air releases. In total, 17 neighbourhoods in
Toronto had a poverty rate at or higher than the national average, and
high releases (over 100,000 kg) of combined toxic air pollutants and
criteria air contaminants.
"Pollution and poverty collide in some communities, potentially adding
to the health burden that many people living in poverty already face,"
said Jennifer Foulds, Communications Director, Environmental Defence.
"Clearly, the message to governments is they need to work hard to
significantly reduce pollution and poverty, as the two often go
The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence
- further action to reduce and eliminate pollution in
the Great Lakes basin through an increased focus on pollution
prevention at all levels of society, through toxics use reduction
strategies and Toronto's Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and
- formal recognition by all levels of government that
pollution can affect people's mental, physical and emotional health and
that people living in poverty may be additionally affected by pollution;
- further research be conducted by all levels of
government, academics, anti-poverty and environmental organizations to
gain a better understanding as to how people's mental, physical and
emotional health is affected by living in poverty in communities with
high pollution burdens. These findings should help inform the
development of anti-poverty reduction plans; and,
- governments develop, in consultation with a diverse
range of communities, including anti-poverty, environmental and health
sectors, a clear environmental equity policy framework that considers
how the connections between poverty and pollution can be integrated in
concrete ways into environmental decision-making processes (e.g.,
environmental approvals, standards approvals, management of toxic
substances, etc.) The process of facility siting and permit renewals
should include the consideration of cumulative loadings from multiple
sources in the air shed.
An Examination of Pollution and Poverty in the Great
Lakes Basin, as well as separate Fact Sheets for the results from
the whole Great Lakes basin and for Toronto, are available to download
for free on the PollutionWatch
is a collaborative project of Environmental Defence and the Canadian
Environmental Law Association.
For more information contact:
Fe de Leon, Canadian Environmental Law Association, (416) 960-2284 ext.
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232