Canadian Smog Science Assessment Highlights and Key Messages: chapter 4

Effects on Social and Economic Wellbeing

Smog also has wide-ranging socio-economic impacts on health-related and non-health related outcomes valued by Canadians. Among the socio-economic impacts of smog on human health that can be quantified are medical treatment costs and lost worker productivity associated with hospital admissions and emergency department visits due to respiratory and cardiac illnesses.

Non-health related impacts on social and economic wellbeing are also significant. O3 can impact the output of Canadian farms and forestry operations by decreasing the primary productivity of crops and forests. The Province of Ontario estimated that O3 causes $201 million in damages annually for select crops. Smog can also lower the enjoyment that Canadians and tourists experience because the light scattering and absorbing properties of PM can impair visibility of their surroundings and scenic locations. Visibility is based on visual perception and is one of the most obvious indicators of air quality to the public. Following a pattern similar to PM concentrations, visibility in Canada is best on the coasts and worst in the more urbanized central areas of the country. There are economic costs associated with impaired visibility. For example, the impact of a single extreme visibility degradation event on tourist recreational revenue is estimated at a loss of about $7.45 million in Vancouver and $1.32 million in Fraser Valley. The Canada-wide Standard for PM2.5 does not preserve visual air quality as it can be impaired through a range of PM2.5 levels, even at concentrations below 30 µg m-3.

Smog also impacts our built environment by increasing the rate at which materials break down. PM impacts materials through accelerating naturally-occurring processes such as discolouration, fading, tarnishing, which could increase the rates at which materials (e.g., rubbers, textiles, surface coatings) need to be replaced or cleaned.

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