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Current Environmental Issues in the Greater Toronto Area

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 2520 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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In this research paper, I will be talking about some current environmental issues in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). There are many current environmental issues in Toronto concerning different types of pollution caused by commercial and consumer activity in the city. There are many harmful effects of human activity, such as air pollution, water pollution, and other influences caused by urban infrastructure like highways and public transportation services. But in this paper, I am going to focus on these three current environmental issues in Toronto: the large amount of air pollution in our city, the extensive contamination in the waterways around the GTA, and the tremendous difficulties concerning waste management. I will first discuss the root cause for each issue. Then I will explain the effects of each issue, particularly those on health, the environment, and quality of life. I will conclude my paper by giving recommendations on how to solve each of the three primary environmental issues in Toronto.

Discussions and Analysis

The first environmental issue I will discuss is the large amount of air pollution in Toronto. In 2004, Toronto Public Health reported that there were around 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations each year in Toronto because of air pollution. (Stephanie Gower, 2014) In 2014, air pollution had an even larger impact on the health of people in Toronto, even though there were improvements on air quality. Last year there were around 1,300 premature deaths and 3,550 hospitalizations in Toronto due to increased air pollution. (Stephanie Gower, 2014)

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More than 50% of Toronto’s air pollution is distributed to urban areas in and around the city. The primary causes of air pollution are exhaust from motor vehicles and emissions from factories. Millions of cars, trucks, vans and busses use the city’s roadways each year. The number of factories in the GTA is always increasing. According to the average, these sources of air pollution account for around 280 deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations in Toronto each year. (Stephanie Gower, 2014) These sources account for around 42% of premature deaths and 55% of hospitalizations because of air pollution in Toronto. These percentages of premature death and hospitalizations show that there is a decrease comparing with 2007 estimates, as air pollution distributed by vehicles gave rise to about 440 deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations that year. (Stephanie Gower, 2014) But there is still a very large health impact caused by air pollution.

There are two primary results of air pollution, and those are the affects on health and on the environment. Air pollution has very adverse effects on the health of children and adults. There are five key air pollutants that can harm humans, and those are sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and ozone (O3). (Health effects of air pollution, 2017) The elderly and young children are the ones greatly affected by air pollution. The five air pollutants affect breathing and lung condition, which can ultimately lead to such illnesses as: asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and heart conditions, such as angina, arrhythmia, heart attack, heart failure, and hypertension. (Health effects of air pollution, 2017) Also, there are some symptoms that might be evident in a person’s behavior because of air pollution. These include: tiredness, headaches, dizziness, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, mucous in the nose or throat; and dryness or irritation in the eyes, nose, throat and skin.  (Health effects of air pollution, 2017) These harmful effects on health cause many people in Toronto to lose time at work, be hospitalized, or even die. As for the negative environmental effects of air pollution there are several, including acid rain, harm to wildlife, lower crop yield, forest damage, and global climate change. (JR., 2018) As for acid rain, this effect makes the river and lake water unsuitable for some fish and other wildlife in Toronto. As for the effects on wildlife, toxic pollutants in the air have a severe impact. Pollution causes animals to have many health problems, shortening the longevity and worsening the quality of life for countless species. In terms of crop and forest damage, air pollution can damage crops and trees in many ways, lowering crop yield and worsening the quality of produce. As for global climate change, air pollution produces greenhouse gases (GHGs) which harm the environment, causing the world to gradually become warmer each year, which is causing major weather disasters with more regularity. 

We know that transportation is a major contributor of air pollution, which has harmful impacts on health and the environment in Toronto. To reduce pollution and its harmful effects to people and the environment, there are certain things we can do as a society. We need to reduce vehicle usage, particularly the number of cars on the road, as this is directly causing a high percentage of air pollution. We need people to drive less and do more walking and cycling. We need everyone to use more public transit, such as taking the bus, streetcar, and subway. Also, we need to reduce the pollution produced from factories. Companies should be taxed more heavily for their harmful emissions, even if it results in higher prices for consumers and less profit for businesses. We need to reduce our consumption, reuse more of the materials that web typically throw away, and recycle more as well. All of these actions will result in better air quality, a cleaner environment, and fewer illnesses due to pollution. 

The second environmental issue that we are going to discuss is water pollution. Lakes, rivers, and steams in the GTA are becoming over-polluted. When we think about water pollution in GTA, we might think about smaller waterways such as the Don River, Humber River, and Rouge River. But in this research paper, I am going to be focusing on the sources of fecal pollution in Lake Ontario. Municipal wastewater is a major source of fecal pollution. (Thomas A. Edge , 2007) Even though we have made improvements to control the pollution in Lake Ontario through improved sewage treatment plant, there is still room for improvement. With the effluents and combined sewer overflows, beach closures persist in a lot of communities around Lake Ontario. There are many problems about fecal pollution in Lake Ontario, such as droppings from birds, impervious surface runoff, mats of cladophora green alga, and foreshore sand. (Thomas A. Edge , 2007) According to a recent investigation, fecal dropping from birds is the major contributor to the elevated numbers of Escherichia coli in the beach water of Lake Ontario. And this causes the water in Lake Ontario to be very dirty, which harms people and the environment.

The effects of fecal pollution on public health and the environment are large and harmful. Fecal pollution is extremely unsanitary and dangerous, as it contains pathogenic organisms that cause gastrointestinal infections following ingestion or infections of the upper respiratory tract, ears, eyes, nasal cavity and skin. (Faecal pollution and water quality, 2016) Fecal pollution causes people to have Infections and illness, and it is difficult to detect by routine surveillance systems. According to research, tests showed a number of adverse health outcomes including gastrointestinal and respiratory infections to be related on fecal pollution in Lake Ontario. (Thomas A. Edge , 2007) And this is a definite a burden of disease on public health and economic loss. Also, Fecal pollution has an extreme effect on the environment. It makes our water in Lake Ontario very dirty, making it difficult for species of fish and aquatic creatures to survive or breed. And if they cannot survive in the water, people cannot catch them and eat it, which results in a large drop to the economy and public utility. Also, if the water is dirty in the Lake Ontario, this will have a large effect on public health because the water is definitely not safe to drink. 

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We know that fecal pollution has a large effect on the Lake Ontario. Right now, there are no specific ways to prevent this pollution because you cannot kill all the birds that cause the enormous amounts of fecal droppings. But we can use antimicrobial resistance analysis, a system that we can use to make sure our water is clean. Also we need to have a better understanding of water interface on beaches to inform sand-grooming practices and have a well-planned beach management system to protect public health in Lake Ontario. (Thomas A. Edge , 2007)

The last environmental issue that I will discuss is waste management. In 2006, 27,249178 tonnes of waste was dumped by Canada. An amount of 10,437,780 tonnes of waste was dumped by the Province of Ontario, and 1,218,540 tonnes of waste was dumped by the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Around 38.3% of Canadian waste was dumped by the Province of Ontario, and around 11.7% waste was dumped by the GTA. (Shamsul, 2010) Exactly 7,749030 tonnes of waste was diverted by Canada, 2,396,856 tonnes of waste was diverted by Province of Ontario, and 913,930 tonnes of waste was diverted by GTA. (Shamsul, 2010) In 2008, 1,067,054 tonnes of waste was dumped by the GTA and 1,078,261 tonnes of waste was diverted by the GTA. Comparing to the results in 2006, the disposal of waste decreased by 12.43% and diversion of waste was increased by 18% in GTA by the year 2008. (Shamsul, 2010) But waste management is still a big problem which requires a lot of improvement in the GTA, especially given the continuously increasing population growth. The major issue about waste management in the GTA is landfills. Dumping too much garbage will cause land pollution to worsen and an uncontrolled buildup of all sorts of solid waste. (What are Landfills?, 2016) There are multiple effects of poor waste management. The first effect is on air quality. Waste impacts the air quality around landfills because of the toxic fumes which are produced, such as Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) (Eugene A. Mohareb, 2011) which are very bad for the environment. The second effect is ground water pollution. Harmful run-off water is groundwater pollution that results from liquid which leeches from landfills, and it is hard to prevent the natural deterioration of ground water. This has severely adverse effects on the environment because animals and plants drink and absorb this poison. The third harmful effect by landfill waste is that on public health. If people live near the landfill areas, there are risks of health implications include birth defects, low birth weight, and particular cancers. Other undesirable impacts are sleepiness, nausea, headaches, and lassitude. The last unwanted effect by landfill waste is soil and land pollution. Landfill waste could directly make the soil and land to be unusable, destroying the ground area because of toxic chemicals spread over its area. Then after a long time, the soil is irreparably damaged, distorting soil fertility, and greatly harming plant life.

In order to solve the landfill waste issue in the GTA, there are multiple ways to improve the situation. The first solution is source reduction. Source reduction is the most effect way to minimize the waste in landfill. (Shamsul, 2010) It reduces the volume and toxicity of generated waste, such as lowering the GHG pollution. It also saves costs from transportation and extends the life of landfills. For example, instead of using plastic shopping bags, we can encourage people to use cotton or other disposable bags. People can buy less unnecessary consumables and use them most efficiently to reduce waste. The second solution is for people and companies to reuse and recycle much more material than at present time. This is an efficient way to reduce the millions of tones of waste that is constantly dumped in landfills. The three Rs help to extend the life of landfills and reduce GHG pollution. Also it saves limited and costly resources, which will make our environment becoming better and better. The last solution is to have a well-designed implementation of integrated waste management, as this can directly decrease the impacts of landfill on soil, air and water. If landfills are well designed and operated, then we will have a cleaner environment that is harmed less from pollution.


In conclusion, there are still a lot of environmental issues in the GTA, which are bound to persist for decades to come. After researching the pressing environmental issues of the GTA, I recognize that we can do a lot more to reduce the harmful pollution that is a result of human activity. People and all businesses should face larger fines and penalties for excessive pollution and dumping or not recycling. If people use more mass transportation like busses and subways, then there will be far less pollution in our valuable air. If factories reuse resources to produce in a more effective and efficient way, then there will be far less pollution in the air. Also if people do more recycling, then we can reduce our ever-growing problems of waste management. In the future, I will try to do my part by using more mass transportation and recycling more of my refuse more diligently and effectively. I must do these things otherwise when I tell others to do the same I will be nothing more than a bystander and hypocrite.


  • Thomas A. Edge , S. H.. (2007, May 17th). Multiple lines of evidence to identify the sources of fecal pollution at a freshwater beach in Hamilton Harbour, Lake Ontario .
  • What are Landfills? (2016). Retrieved from www.conserve-energy-future.com: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-landfills.php
  • Eugene A. Mohareb, H. L. (2011, May). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Waste Management . Assessment of Quantification Methods .
  • Faecal pollution and water quality. (2016). Retrieved from www.whio.int: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwe1-chap4.pdf
  • Health effects of air pollution. (2017, November 16th). Retrieved November 11th, 2018 , from www.canada.ca: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/health-effects-indoor-air-pollution.html
  • JR., R. K. (2018). Health & Environmental Effects of Air Pollution . Health Effects .
  • Shamsul, A. (2010). A Study on potential for sustainable waste management in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • Stephanie Gower, R. M. (2014, April). Path to Healthier Air. Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update .


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