Canadians are at higher risk of dying in areas that are highly polluted even though the country’s levels of air pollution are among the lowest in the world, a study has said.
The new research has been carried out by the University of British Columbia, in partnership with Statistics Canada, McGill University, Dalhousie University, University of New Brunswick and Oregon State University.
It is part of a larger international study commissioned by Health Effects Institute, a Boston-based non-profit that specialises in research on the health effects of air pollution.
In order to conduct the study, the researchers combined satellite data with a model of pollutant transport and chemistry, and ground-level air quality measurements, according to a press statement by the University of British Columbia.
They used the data to produce a pollution map which estimated Canadian air pollution levels by the square kilometre.
According to the press statement, the scientists also cross-referenced air pollution data with anonymous information of more than nine million Canadians as given in the national census.
The scientists found that there was a five per cent increase in the risk of deaths of Canadians when high- and low-pollution areas were compared.
This is despite the fact that Canada has one of the lowest air pollution levels in the world that are below national and international air quality guidelines. It is one of the few countries that meets World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines as well as those set by Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.
During the course of the study, the researchers also found that new immigrants to the country were as susceptible to the health impacts of air pollution as residents.
This, they said, further proved that air pollution was affecting everybody in Canada.
The researchers are currently working on an analysis that will show whether moving from an area of high pollution to one that is cleaner reduces death risks.