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Cancer-causing chemicals found in Hamilton, Ont. air


An air-monitoring experiment found cancer-causing chemicals are polluting the entire city of Hamilton, Ont.

In the study, a concentration of benzo (a)pyrene — a carcinogenic chemical – in Hamilton exceeded the Ontario air quality guidelines.

“It’s about one cigarette per day that people are breathing in,” Matthew Adams, a University of Toronto associate professor and air-quality expert co-ordinating the study, said.

The research, led by the City of Hamilton and funded by Health Canada, has been underway for nearly two years. In that time, more than 60 air monitors have been attached to street poles in every ward to track air quality. A public town hall took place on Tuesday night to discuss the results.

Of note, benzo (a)pyrene, a chemical created when certain substances are not burned completely, was found across the city – not solely in areas near steel mills that commonly emit the cancer-linked chemicals.

Occupational exposures to the carcinogen have been associated with a series of cancers, including lung and bladder, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“It’s actually more ubiquitous across the entire city than we expected,” Adams said.

Hamilton’s steelmakers – ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Stelco – are among the top benzo (a)pyrene emitters in the country.

“We do know the [steel] industry emits this pollutant and that’s not up for debate,” Adams said.

The ubiquity of the carcinogenic pollutants is less understood and Matthews said the interplay of urology, background conditions and industrial pollutants needs to be studied further.

“We’ll have to start doing more specific analysis to pinpoint what the sources are,” he said.

“The other question we’re still unraveling is once we look at the pattern across the city of air pollution – how is that distributed? Is it areas with higher income experience less air pollution compared to lower income?" Top Stories

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