The Cost of Pollution – It’s killing us – literally!

OTTAWA, June 1, 2017 — Pollution costs Canadians tens of billions of dollars every year in terms of impacts on their health and well-being, their pocketbooks and the value of their homes, buildings, roads and the natural environment.

This is according to a new report released today by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) entitled The Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments. The report offers the most comprehensive portrait of pollution and its costs ever undertaken in Canada.

Based on a systematic review of published Canadian and international studies, the report reveals that:

  • Pollution of all types cost Canadians at least $39 billion in 2015 in terms of lost health and well-being. The total health and well-being costs – which could not be measured because of data gaps – were possibly twice this amount.
  • Lost income and increased spending to deal with pollution’s impacts cost households, businesses and governments billions of dollars more. Just cleaning up sites contaminated by past pollution cost the federal government more than $300 million in 2015 – a cost that will grow in the future. Costs associated with common diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, caused by ‘persistent organic pollutants’ could have been tens of billions of dollars.
  • Loss in the value of Canada’s assets – houses, buildings, roads and the natural environment – from pollution is also significant. Lake Erie’s value for tourism, commercial fishing and water supply has dropped by $4 billion because of phosphorous pollution. Homes along the lake’s shoreline have dropped in value by more than $700 million.

In total, Canada has trillions of dollars of assets at risk from pollution and we simply cannot say how much of their value – Canadians’ wealth – we are losing today. Better data are urgently needed here, especially with the growing threat of climate change.

“This report demonstrates that the costs of pollution amount to tens of billions of dollars a year. These costs are real and will be borne by Canadian families, businesses and governments into the future unless we take action to minimize pollution,” said Scott Vaughan, president-CEO, IISD.

“Having strong data to demonstrate the costs is key to reducing them. The impacts of pollution are too great to allow poor data to stop us from taking action,” he added.

“Our report reviewed the costs of all pollutants in Canada using a transparent method. Since costs vary, we wanted to examine everything we could,” said report author Robert Smith.

“It is the most complete look to-date at the costs of pollutants in Canada. The seriousness of our findings underscores the need for more research to fill the gaps in our understanding of pollution costs,” added Smith.

The development of the report also identified several priority data gaps: climate change; persistent organic pollutants; heavy metals and freshwater pollution from phosphorus and nitrogen.

The Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments Report videos include:

Contaminated sites
Extreme Weather
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)


Cost of Pollution: Extreme Weather – conferenceboard

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