Ottawa, Ontario — Tuesday December 14, 2021
There are five major petroleum facilities in Ontario and 3 of them are located in the Sarnia region, Canada’s “Chemical Valley”. These petroleum processing facilities develop multiple chemical products (e.g. plastics) and refine oil which we currently rely on to fuel our cars, homes, and cities. Processing of fossil fuels can release air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), which can have major lasting health impacts on those living near, as they are exposed to high levels of SO2 every day. This human-produced pollution causes breathing problems, respiratory diseases, and serious complications for those with lung and heart conditions.
My name is Dr. Dhenuka Radhakrishnan, a pediatric respirologist and Director of CHEO’s Asthma Program. A key interest of mine is studying the effects of environmental exposures, including air pollutants and SO2, on the development of childhood respiratory diseases. My team has demonstrated a direct correlation between the elevated levels of SO2 in Sarnia and a higher incidence of childhood asthma compared to other regions in southwestern Ontario. We looked at more than 100,000 children born in southwestern Ontario over a 16-year range. Childhood asthma is a serious lung disease that affects a child’s quality of life. One child affected by high SO2 levels is one too many.
I am very encouraged that David Piccini, Minister of Environment for the province of Ontario, is taking necessary steps to crack down on air pollutants in the Sarnia region. I believe that his proposal to implement regulations to reduce SO2 emissions from all major petroleum facilities in Ontario is a feasible and sustainable plan. Any efforts to improve air quality will significantly reduce the number of children developing respiratory illnesses in and around the Sarnia region. Children deserve better, and this regulation is a step in the right direction.
The vision of everyone at the CHEO Research Institute is to make discoveries to inspire the best life for every child and youth, and I am thankful to Minister Piccini and his staff for doing the same by putting kids’ health first.