Health Impacts

The 2011 Air Quality Health Assessment Study prepared for Clean Air Hamilton by SENES Consulting Inc. estimated that the six key air pollutants – nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground-level ozone (O3), inhalable particulate matter (PM10), respirable particulate matter (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO) – contribute to about 186 premature deaths, 395 respiratory hospital admissions and 322 cardiovascular hospital admissions each year in Hamilton (see Figure 1).

air pollution health impacts

These estimates, which are based on the most recent health studies and Hamilton’s air quality and health statistics, identified NO2, ozone and particulate matter as the air pollutants responsible for greatest number of these health impacts (see Figure 2).

contribution of air pollutants to health impacts in hamilton

In 2005, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) updated their estimated cost of illness associated with air pollution. This update of their 2000 report reflects the improved understanding of the health effects, including new studies on the chronic effects of exposure to air pollution.

The report shows the estimated cost of illness as both a dollar figure, as well as the projected health outcomes including premature death, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and minor illnesses. In 2005, air pollution caused an estimated 5,800 premature deaths, almost 17,000 hospital admissions and almost 60,000 Ontarians to visit hospital emergency rooms. The adverse health impacts in Ontario each year from trans-boundary air pollution include more than 2,700 premature deaths, almost 12,000 hospital admissions, and almost 14,000 emergency room visits.

The OMA report estimates the cost of air pollution to the economy of Ontario at $16 Billion per year! While the OMA did not provide a breakdown of these costs for Hamilton, the local figure would be around $1 Billion, based on the proportion of the local population (~600,000) to the population of the Province of Ontario (~12,500,000). The estimated health impacts on the health of Hamiltonians as a result of smog can be found in the table below.

Table 1: 2005 Illness Cost of Air Pollution – Regional Data for Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Municipality (Source: Ontario Medical Association)

Number of Individuals in 2005 Number of Individuals in 2026 (Projected)
Premature Deaths 290 500
Hospital Admissions 8102 1,200
Emergency Visits 2,840 4,250

See the following Fact Sheets for more information about the air pollutants:

More information is also available in Health Canada’s 2023 report Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Transportation, Industry and Residential Sources in Canada: Estimates of premature mortality and morbidity outcomes at national, provincial, territorial, and air zone levels.