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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Linking health and wealth

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A 2008 study by the Canadian Medical Association predicted the number of deaths from air pollution will likely skyrocket over the next two decades. By 2031, the death toll is expected to total 800,000 across Canada.

Meanwhile, poverty rates in Toronto continue to rise. Statistics Canada defines poverty as a family of two that has a total annual income below $22,964, a family of three with an income under $28,560, and a family of four making less than $34,572. In Toronto, both challenges — poverty and pollution — collide in several neighbourhoods, according to a recent Pollution Watch study.

Released in November 2008, the study links pollution figures from 2005 and poverty statistics in Toronto neighbourhoods. A total of 17 neighbourhoods have high emissions of combined air pollutants as well as a poverty rate above the national average of 11.8%.

Here are breakdowns of how pollution, poverty, and wealth affect a cross-section of eight Toronto neighbourhoods.

Nearly half of the population in Rosedale has a household income of $100,000 or more and, not surprisingly, there's not a polluting facility in sight.

Banbury-Don Mills
There are only four facilities in Banbury-Don Mills, which results in a low pollution rate, and 27% of the population earn a household income of $100,000 and over.

York-University Heights
York University Heights suffers the most from pollution and poverty. The majority of the population lives on a household annual income of only $10,000-$19,000. There are a frightening 17 facilities polluting the area, and York University (Keele campus) is listed as one of the top polluting facilities.

Although the majority household income is above $100,000, pollution is still high in Mimico. According to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Mimico suffers from water contamination, conventional and heavy metal pollutants, loss of forests, unsustainable urban development, and degraded air quality.

South Riverdale
South Riverdale ranks highly on the pollution and poverty spectrum because of its low average income; 13.3% of households live on $10,000-$19,000, a stark contrast to the affluent neighbourhood of North Riverdale. And South Riverdale, in particular, has a higher percentage of lone parent families. The Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant along the neighbourhood's border releases the most pollutants in the area. Other facilities, like nearby Cascades Boxboard Group on the other side of the Don Valley Parkway, also contribute to the high pollution levels. Cleaning up the area has long been a priority for the City.

Agincourt-South Malvern
While the average household income starts at about $100,000, Agincourt South Malvern West receives a lot of pollution from the Agincourt plant of wax manufacturer The International Group Inc., which ranks as the second highest facility releasing pollutants in the neighbourhood.

Bay Street corridor
It may surprise you to see this neighbourhood on a list of areas high in both pollution and poverty. But nearby facilities like the Walton Street Steam Plant and a high instance of lone parent families combine to place Bay Street Corridor on a level with neighbourhoods much further removed from the downtown core.

The Junction
Although the Junction's average household income is close to $60,000, it ranks high in pollution. There are seven ranking facilities in this neighbourhood, and four of them are in close proximity to each other: Keele Centre, Cawthra Plant, Universal Drum, and Serologicals Biomanufacturing Corportation.