Toronto’s heat wave is detrimental to residents’ health

Climate change is making us all sicker and our clients may need more coverage than they think

Toronto’s heat wave is detrimental to residents’ health
by Michael Mata

Torontonians have endured weeks of muggy heat and extreme humidity, with temperatures hitting the low 30s. In an attempt to safeguard residents from the dangers of heatstroke and exhaustion, the city of Toronto and Toronto Public Health have turned libraries into cooling centers and issued 11 heat alerts and 4 extreme heat alerts.

Extreme heat can lead to ill-health in a number of ways. Toxic emissions from vehicles, such as nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds, are catalyzed in scorching temperatures into ozone—a substance that is known to increase inflammation in the lungs. Higher levels of ground ozone poses a serious danger to those suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and could also lead to more hospitalizations for asthma sufferers.

To prevent heatstroke and exhaustion, physicians recommend that Torontonians seek shelter in cool, air-conditioned environments throughout the summer. However, the use of air-conditioning is counter-productive in the long run, as drawing power from an energy grid that relies heavily on gas releases even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Climate change and increasing global temperatures will prove detrimental to the health of all Canadians in the long run. At next week’s annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), one of the meeting’s strategic sessions will focus on the health consequences of climate change.

In 2015, CMA members directed their organization to divest its financial holdings in fossil fuels, and this year, MD Management, a financial services subsidiary of the CMA, launched one of the few fossil-fuel free mutual funds in Canada. 

Toronto is attempting to reduce its carbon footprint through a better recycling program. Some of the proposed solutions to combat climate change include transportation reform, the creation of more bike lanes, and the building of mixed-use neighborhoods.

While change is afoot, it’s clear that rising temperatures and high levels of pollution means that Canadians need better and more comprehensive health insurance than ever before.