Photo: Green energy could make every day a Clean Air Day

Health professionals have long raised the alarm about air pollution because of the damage it causes to human health and well-being.

By Gideon Forman, on behalf of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

Send a letter to Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent, urging him to take action on Clean Air Day.

Ontario doctors, nurses and leading health charities have teamed up to support renewable power and the speedy phase-out of coal-fired electricity. It's a project that's unique in this country.

Health professionals have long raised the alarm about air pollution because of the damage it causes to human health and well-being. In a landmark report titled No Breathing Room, the Canadian Medical Association calculated that in 2008 air pollution killed 21,000 Canadians and that by 2031 the projected "number of deaths due to long-term exposure to air pollution will be 710,000."

Now the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, the Ontario Lung Association and the Asthma Society of Canada are running ads in 15 Ontario newspapers under the heading, "Doctors and Nurses Support Green Energy." The ads — which are also appearing in magazines and on-line — tell readers that last year Ontario's coal plants caused more than 150,000 illnesses and over 300 deaths. They state: "Ontario doctors, nurses, and other health professionals support energy conservation combined with wind and solar power — to help us move away from coal." The logos of the signatory organizations feature prominently, representing literally tens of thousands of health professionals.

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Coal-fired power begins with mining that devastates landscapes — in some cases literally removing the tops of mountains. Burning the fuel releases a host of poisons, including lead and mercury (neurotoxins), chromium and arsenic (carcinogens) and components of acid rain (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides), in addition to the fine particles and smog-forming gases that take a toll on respiratory and cardiovascular health. Perhaps most worrying is its contribution to climate change: Ontario's coal facilities alone emit the greenhouse gas equivalent of several million automobiles. If global warming is the world's most pressing environmental problem and a threat to global health, banning coal is job number one. In an article published last spring in the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted, "James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist who deserves much of the credit for making global warming an issue in the first place, has argued forcefully that most of the climate-change problem comes down to just one thing, burning coal..."

But the new campaign in Ontario does more than just assess harm — as important as that is. This initiative, for the first time in Canada, sees health professionals combating air pollution by urging both an end to coal and an embrace of renewables.

Ontario has promised to close its coal-burning plants by 2014 but doctors and nurses want it to happen much sooner. They point out the province has more than enough coal-free power to close the plants right now. And they emphasize that coal is a disaster from start to finish. (Ontario is by no means the only offender. In Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan over 50 per cent of electricity comes from this fossil fuel; in Alberta the figure is 82 per cent.)

This is why Ontario doctors, nurses and health charities have launched this unprecedented campaign for an accelerated coal phase-out and the development of renewable energy. Unlike coal plants, wind and solar operations do not contribute to brain damage and cancer, nor do they produce acid rain, climate change and smog. This is a good thing to remember the next time someone attacks green energy as "unsafe".

And it's a hopeful thought for Clean Air Day on June 8.

Gideon Forman is Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

June 7, 2011

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Jun 21, 2011
5:59 AM

The American Medical Association:

MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM CEMENT PLANTS: The AMA today adopted policy that supports the EPA’s national mercury emissions standards for cement kilns at limits based on the latest pollution control technology and supports stricter monitoring of mercury emissions from cement plants. Approximately 118 cement kilns emit over 11,000 pounds of mercury each year, making cement kilns one of the largest sources of mercury pollution.

“Exposure to mercury can have adverse affects on human neurological development and is associated with reproductive toxicity and cardiovascular morbidity,” said AMA Board Member Edward Langston, M.D. “New AMA policy supports stricter monitoring of mercury emissions from cement plants to lessen or eliminate the potential for Americans to be exposed to potentially harmful levels of mercury.”

Jun 09, 2011
8:32 AM

I agree very much with ending the use of harmful and destructive energy. There is no way for humans to rebuild a mountain after mining. We should use the energy that is endless, like wind and solar energy. Reducing our consumption is of course the first step to a healthier place to live. If you are interested in learning how to make your own solar panel follow this link.

Jun 08, 2011
2:47 PM

Don’t forget that waterpower is also an important player in any green, renewable energy generation plan, and has the unique ability to also help with following the load demands for electricity.

Jun 08, 2011
10:50 AM

Currently there are 47,000 Hydro Towers in Ontario.

One 300 watt solar panel on each of the 47,000 hydro towers in Ontario, precisely installed so as not to interfere nor disrupt the balance, stability and integrity of the tower, will create 14 Million Watts of clean, green electricity … enough to power 14,000 homes! No environmental studies needed, no environmental assessments, no more disrupting of prime agricultural land, no aesthetic complaints — the towers are already there.

These Towers, some as high as 200 feet tall, are standing in clear, unobstructed sunshine all day long — no trees to cut, no soil to disrupt.

And, these towers are already “on the grid”!! All you have to do is plug them in! Immediate electricity! “On-call” electricity during those hot mid-summer, sun shiny, mid-day, peak air conditioning times!

If you had to put 3 panels per tower to maintain the balance and structural integrity of the existing tower — we would then have 42 Million watts of clean, green complaint free electricity. And, even if it was necessary to use support ties to ground the towers more securely, it’s a far less cost to “retrofit” the towers than to order new environmental assessments, secure the land/locations, construct new facilities etc And, we don’t need new mounting towers for the solar panels. … And think of the job creation to manufacture and then to install these panels.

One megawatt is equal to one million watts — 42 Million watts = 42 Mega Watts of Electricity … And, if 1 MWh of energy can sustain 1000 homes for one hour … 42 MW can power 42,000 homes!

Solar Panels are pollution free … they are quiet and unobtrusive!

Suddenly there is no need to use more land to install 600 lb p.s.i. lines to feed a Fossil Fuel Peaker Plant in King Twp ON. No more pollution — no more particulate matter … The Ladies of the Lake (Simcoe) will finally “breathe” easier and the $$$ Millions of dollars the ONT Provincial Gov’t is spending to clean up the Lake Simcoe watershed will not have to be used to clean up “new” pollution! … And, we further reduce our carbon foot print because again, the towers are already there so we don’t have to use diesel trucks and tractors and bulldozers to prepare the land nor to construct the towers, the facilities … etc. etc. etc …

Note; eight 300 watt Solar Panels per hydro tower creates 112.8 MegaWatts which can support over one-hundred and twelve thousand homes ! … what if 12 Solar Panels were instaled … 16 … 24 Solar Panels per tower … wow …

So we may have to install an inverter/converter, adapter to integrate the low voltage with the higher voltage … and we may have to install the panels properly so as not to disturb the balance that wind may cause as well as harmonize the standing waves …

However, solar power and solar technology has been around for more than 100 years — and with recent interest, solar technology has been expanding and improving exponentially … Further, Hydro One will spend, over the next few years, millions and millions of Dollar$ to address/improve/update the Tower Infrastructure due to years of neglect. — so why not use this opportunity to install an electricity generating system that, once installed, does not require expensive fossil fuel or dangerous nuclear materials to generate … NOTE; since humans arrived on this planet, the cost of sun light has remained the same … zero! The only other known power supply that has not gone up in price since the great depression is WIND … but that’s for another breath!!

Food for thought … and without sunlight, there would be no food!

p.s. — did you know that in 1912 there were California Companies manufacturing and selling Solar Hot Water Heaters until gas compaines put them out of business by giving away the natural gas from the oil rigs

I would like to organize a petition with at least 5,000 signatures to be sent to and to encourage the Ont Provincial Gov’t (and all the Provinces) to consider this solar panel option

Jun 08, 2011
6:06 AM

The following is a slightly edited version of a letter my wife has written to the editor of one of our local newspapers and due to be published today. I’m posting it here ‘cause I think it’s such a nice look from the inside at the sort of “small thing that can be undertaken by small people” (… my wife is only 5’4”)… .

Tweed Council needs to think again about supporting Thessalon in their solar systems objections.

The International press worries every day on their front pages about flooding and drought, starvation and disease, collapsing ecosystems and extinctions, melting of the icecaps and thawing of the tundra, climate-driven warfare and mass migrations.

Yet some among us seem to think Canadians are going to find our country spared and ought to be happily playing our fiddles while the World around us burns.

I get excited when I see someone has put up solar panels. Each system has cost the owner anywhere from $40,000 up, depending on size. They are investments of a most conscientious and laudable kind.

Our Province has wisely guaranteed a pay-back to encourage these investments, in its hope we can begin the slow process of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. This in turn has given me hope.

I grew up in Ottawa and my father was in Ottawa Hydro in a leadership role, so I have a pretty extensive education in the history of electrical generation and distribution. I also got to have pointed out to me the many substations in and around not only Ottawa but every other community we ever drove through on our trips away. Substations were all of them made up of wires and poles and massive transformers and very utilitarian buildings, many of them, surrounded by high chain-link fencing, and cheek-to-jowl, often, with people’s residences. This is not to mention of course Dad’s sightings of huge metal structures carrying electric wires from where the power was being created. Or the poles that lined everyone’s streets, some having to bear dangerous transformers, and all bringing us wires which were then connected not very attractively to our homes.

And these installations are every bit as unsightly now as they were then.

The thing is: familiarity has helped our eyes to glide over the unsightliness. They are just “there.”

I personally like the looks of solar panels, really do find them exciting to see, and, as they are big-time investments depending on being kept clean and in good repair, we can surely give the owners of them the benefit of any doubt in this regard.

…While those few brave people and their panels wait for our Council’s worried eye to start just gliding over them.

Penny Vance

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