The people of Sarnia, Ont., inhale some of the most polluted air in all of Canada.

So says a study from the World Health Organization (WHO) that looked at almost 1,100 cities in 91 countries [Read article]. That means the 80,000 people who call Sarnia home are exposed to excessive levels of pollution. Some of the pollution is so small that it’s able to enter the lungs and lead to cardiovascular and respiratory problems, including asthma, lung disease and cancer, according to WHO.

This is unacceptable, especially when Canada ranked third overall in terms of air quality.

Why is this happening in Sarnia?
Sarnia is known as Chemical Valley, where you’ll find dozens of refineries, petrochemical facilities, and other manufacturing and energy production facilities. It’s where a good chunk of Canada’s petrochemical refining industry (which turns crude oil into things like plastic and gasoline) calls home. A study by Ecojustice in 2007 showed that Chemical Valley releases more “toxic” air pollutants – substances associated with environmental contamination, cancer, and reproductive and development health effects – than industry in any other community in Ontario

So what is Ecojustice doing about it?
We’re representing Ada Lockridge and Ron Plain, two members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, as they take on Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment over the cumulative effects of pollution from local refinery and chemical facilities.

The level of pollution faced by Ron, Ada and their community is unlike few places in the country. Community health studies have indicated that Aamjiwnaang residents suffer from many different health problems, including birth defects, skin rashes, chronic headaches, high blood pressure and cancers. The study from WHO study confirms that. The study also mentions that more than two million people around the world die each year from breathing in tiny particles in air pollution

What do we want?
A victory in this case would be a first step toward dealing with the pollution problem and defending the human rights of Aamjiwnaang citizens and, hopefully, all Canadians from the threat of air pollution.

If you think that every Canadian deserves a right to healthy environment, help us spread the word about the problem in Sarnia by sharing this blog with your friends or signing up for our updates.