Your neighborhood affects your health, new report points out

Your neighborhood affects your health, highlights new report

It is not just the Horne Foundry in Rouyn-Noranda that has a deleterious impact on the health of residents in its sector. Montreal's most disadvantaged neighborhoods and areas near major highways are affected by a higher concentration of pollutants and heat islands, according to a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation.

So that the quality of water, soil, air and food influence the health of populations, low-income people and racialized people are the most affected by these inequities, according to the report, which focuses on the injustices and health inequalities.

The North and the East

The North and East of the city are particularly affected, such as the boroughs of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Montréal-Nord, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Parc-Extension, as Dr. Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers pointed out during a technical briefing held on September 8th. 

Yet the report points out that the poorer people are, the less greenhouse gases they emit. These gases are linked to transport, energy and consumer goods… and wealthy people travel more, consume more, have more energy-efficient housing and own more cars, underlines the clinical doctor and teacher at the Laval University, Isabelle Goupil-Sormany.

It is industrial and road infrastructure that undermines the health and environmental picture of disadvantaged neighborhoods, the report points out. For example, the Trans-Nord pipeline crosses the northern and eastern boroughs of the island, recognized as the most disadvantaged. Its continued operation poses health and safety issues.

Indeed, several incidents of leaks have occurred since its construction more than 65 years ago. It passes under houses and a school and yet no evacuation plan has been planned to date.

In addition, Ray-Mont Logistiques is in the process of setting up a goods transhipment platform near a long-term care and social housing center in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The project would cause many environmental nuisances, according to the report.

The health effects are multiple and differ according to exposure to pollutants. For example, there are increases in asthma attacks, cardiovascular problems and cases of cancer, according to the Regional Public Health Department (DRSP).


In addition, the transportation sector is the largest contributor of fine particles to the atmosphere in Montreal, according to the DRSP. Populations living near major roads, such as highways and arteries such as rue Notre-Dame, are particularly affected.

The consequences of air pollution on health are multiple. There are breathing difficulties, heart disease, neurodevelopmental disorders or premature dementia problems, according to Ms. Pétrin-Desrosiers.

While the World Health Organization tightened air quality thresholds last year, the provincial government did not follow suit, arguing that air quality was adequate in Quebec.

Heat islands

In addition, heat islands represent an insidious and additional health risk. Once again, their distribution within the districts of the metropolis is unbalanced. 

Your neighborhood affects your health, underlines a new report

Map superimposing the heat islands and the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of Montreal. Source Quebec Geoportal – Heat island data from 2012.

The majority of Montrealers who died due to the consequences of the 2018 summer heat wave lived in a heat island, the report recalls. “The lack of vegetation or air conditioning is just as much a threat to health, especially during a heat wave,” he says.

Because of existing social inequalities, the abilities adaptation to climate change are not the same between inhabitants. Access to islands of coolness such as bathing places is more difficult for the most disadvantaged and immigrant people, due to the language barrier, for example.

Moreover, this summer, the City of Montreal tried a new method of cooling for people located in a heat island. The Plante administration is counting on containers serving as a temporary swimming pool.

Actions envisaged

The report highlights the lack of action with regard to environmental injustices that exist in Quebec and which further threaten the health of the most vulnerable populations. 

Contacted by Métro, the Parti Québécois (PQ) recalls that it wishes to dedicate 1% of the Quebec Infrastructure Plan to greening and to establish a national air quality plan. The PQ also wants to involve the Bureau d’public hearings on the environment in any new industrial development, according to the PQ's assistant director of communications, Anne-Sophie Desprez.

The City, the Coalition avenir Québec, the Liberal Party of Quebec, Quebec solidaire and the Conservative Party of Quebec did not return calls from Metro.

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