The “startling” economic toll of environmental pollution in Canada, from city smog to road salt runoff, runs into the tens of billions of dollars per year, with air pollution alone costing the economy C$36 billion in 2015, the International Institute for Sustainable Development concludes in a report issued late last week.
“We’re talking big bucks here—big, big bucks being sucked out of the economy,” said report co-author and IISD Senior Associate Robert Smith. “The public needs to know these costs are what they are.”
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The Toronto Star notes the costing in the report is considered conservative, given the lack of data for significant pollutants that could add tens of billions more to the total.
The report “defined pollution as anything released into the environment by human activity,” the Star reports. “This includes car exhaust, sewage, crude oil spilloff, greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizers, waste heat, noise, light, and chemicals like pesticides, plastic additives, and flame retardants.”
Cost categories range from health care expenses to water treatment requirements, lost work days due to illness to honeybee deaths and lost agricultural output.
“The costs are high,” Smith said. “The costs are real. The costs are going to be ongoing, and we don’t know enough about the costs, so we’d better get on with understanding them better.”