OHS Canada Magazine

Air quality study finds elevated levels of carcinogen across Hamilton

Avatar photo

July 14, 2023
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety air quality Hamilton Pollution

Steel and other industrial facilities in Hamilton. Photo: Adobe Stock

A University of Toronto professor says residents of Hamilton, Ont., could be inhaling the chemical equivalent of one or two cigarettes per week —at minimum — due to elevated levels of a cancer-causing compound in the air.

Matthew Adams, an air contaminants researcher working on behalf of the City of Hamilton and the non-profit Environment Hamilton, says air quality monitors installed on street poles across the city found concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene, or BaP, higher than provincial criteria.

He says the BaP concentrations are highest in Hamilton’s industrial region, but also elevated across the municipality’s urban areas.

Adams says the city has known about its BaP problem for some time, but the carcinogen’s ubiquity across the entire city is surprising.

Long-term exposure to the chemical, created by burning tobacco, wood or coal, and by operating gas-powered vehicles, can increase cancer risk.


Hamilton’s steelmakers have been known BaP emitters for years, but Adams says reduced steel production and improved standards for pollution capture since the 1980s have been offset by increased industrial traffic throughout the city.


Stories continue below