Air Pollution

Mitchell Has Explaining To Do

By Jason Leach
Published March 21, 2007

(This blog entry has been updated)

So Councillor Dave Mitchell, like his peer Lloyd Ferguson, won't support an anti-idling bylaw because it' an intrusive waste of money?

I'm the last person to want government meddling with my life and trying to tell me how to live, but his opposition to this bylaw raises the question: What is the role of government?

Are they not supposed to look out for the best interest of the public? They rarely do, so why would we thwart them at a time like this when they are actually trying?

I think Mr. Mitchell has some explaining to do. Does he think it's heavy-handed for governments to demand that industries don't dump waste in our harbour?

Is the smoking bylaw heavy-handed?

We already know that he has no use for police officers pulling over reckless, speeding drivers. Apparently that's intrusive too.

We've all seen the data regarding pollutants from vehicles and their direct effect on our health. A McMaster research study had car drivers head straight to the hospital and have their carbon monoxide (CO) levels checked, and the results were astounding.

Not surprisingly, the longer someone was in a running car, the higher their levels.

If government is just supposed to let everyone do what they want, who will pay the medical bills? Billions of dollars are spent in Ontario every year for medical treatment of smog-related illness.

Why is it that people have no problem with smoking bylaws, but our vehicles are off-limits?

We refuse to un-time lights on Hamilton's streets and remove excess traffic lanes, even though we know more lives will be lost (roughly 30 last year – imagine if 30 people were gunned to death in Hamilton).

We don't care about human lives. Why? Our cars have become god.

Our kids have to walk into school zones breathing drastically unsafe levels of pollutants from idling parents, all because our cars are more important than their health.

Calling attempts to remedy this state of affairs 'Meddling, heavy government' is not a logical response to this issue. But hey, if Mitchell can convince his fellow councillors to go along with this line of thinking, perhaps I'll convince my family and friends to join him.

From now on, maybe I won't pay my municipal tax bills, speeding tickets or medical bills. Why should I cave into the heavy hand of government if my own city council won't?

Update: this blog entry originally stated that drivers had their carbondioxide (CO2) levels tested after driving. As Ted Mitchell pointed out in the comments, it was actually carbon monoxide (CO). Thanks for pointing this out! -Ed.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By zox (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2007 at 00:32:07

And you were expecting.. what?

When a candidate represents an area where 'cars rule', they will not place restrictions on them.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted March 24, 2007 at 11:08:06

Just to clarify, you mean CO (carbon monoxide) not CO2.

The major air pollutants are:

NOx (nitrous oxides, perhaps the most important factor these days)

PM (particulate matter, usually followed by a size number like 10 microns, this is like 100x worse for diesel engines, hence the visible black smoke)

SOx (sulfur oxides, much lower in recent years because of emission controls on industry and tighter diesel fuel regulations)

CO (carbon monoxide, often we use blood levels to gauge pollution exposure in general, and this is way high in smokers)

O3 (ground level ozone, highly correlated with hot days, a product of sunlight on the chemical soup of smog)

The main effects of these are cardiovascular (as in heart attacks) while respiratory effects are much weaker(as in asthma attacks and bronchitis). That is not intuitive.

Interested people can check the AQI here:

Unfortunately the scale is based only on the highest component and they totally ignore the other four pollutants (instead of a weighted average which makes more sense to me)

Historical data is instuctive, for example yesterday, unseasonably warm day, light breeze from N so steel mill and TO traffic PM2.5 drifts here. Overnight the rain cleans it up:

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By nin05 (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2007 at 03:03:15

Who cares. I think the funniest thing I ever read was someone trying to get rid of drive-thrus. Not only would that kill some businesses but it would also do NOTHING for the air quality (as people would leave their cars running while they go inside the establishment... especially in the winter) but it would increase the amount of vehicle thefts. I'm sick and tired of hearing about air quality and global warming. Do you think mother earth is afraid of humans? Ask the tsunami victims in Indonesia if the earth is afraid of gas emissions. Ask the people still frozen in place in Pompeii if the the planet is really going to be affected all that much by recycling and taxing SUV's. This earth could destroy us in one second. It has lasted billions of years... it's not going to be destroyed anytime soon... and CERTAINLY not by humans.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2007 at 18:50:53


  1. Anyone who leaves their car running unattended has little right to complain if their car gets stolen.

  2. Which businesses would be killed completely if they were forced to remove their drive-thru window?

  3. There is no doubt that the earth will be here for a long time. The question is, how long will WE be here to enjoy it? Ask the tsunami victims in Indonesia if climate change has affected their lives.

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By nin05 (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2007 at 01:52:46

1. I never said they had the right to complain.

2. The smaller Tim Hortons inside gas stations for one. See Mud and 20... Stone Church and Upper James. I could write out a list... but it would be completely frivolous.

3. If you could ask the tsunami victims in Indonesia if climate change had anything to do with their death, they'd tell you you were stupid. It was an earthquake.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2007 at 10:11:21

Not to get too off topic but the issue of drive thu's and idling comes up on RTH quite often.

Banning drive thu's completely is a losing battle, in my opinion, its a sound idea, it would have positive impacts on the environment but I just don't see it flying.

I think the best compromise would be to talk with the fast food joints about the health and safety of their employee's who work the drive through. It would be dead simple for restaurants to put large signs next to the order speaker and billboard that say in firm but polite tones "Turn off your engine before ordering, Thank you" And also at the pickup window that says, "For our employee's saftey please shut off your engine, thank you" This is the same idea of the no shirt, no shoes, no service signs and the no smoking signs (although the no smoking signs have a real law to back them up). Some restaurants may even implement the idea that if your engine is still running the manager has the right to refuse you service at the drive through until you shut off your car engine. Once again, back to the no shirt no shoes idea.

I don't know about anybody else, but I find that a lot of people will obey a sign out of habit, whatever it says, if it looks professional enough. Even more people will obey that same sign if there is a by-law to back it up. That's the bottom line right there really.


Nin05 has got you on point three seancb, he may be on shakey ground for points 1 and 2 but tsunami's have nothing to do with global warming.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 26, 2007 at 10:54:44

Hey BrianE, as far as I know the no shirt, no shoes, no service rule is a health regulation, not a store policy. If there were an anti-idling bylaw, drive thrus could also put signs saying 'turn off your engine'. If customers don't turn their engines off then they're breaking the law and can get a fine.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2007 at 11:11:06

I wasn't sure if being topless in a restaurent was against the law or just a universal preference of restaurant owners. I was too lazy to check up on that law. Thank you for clarifying.

Still, even more amunition for a anti idling by-law. If there wasn't a specific clause in the health code against shoeless, shirtless patrones I would no doubt have to stare at someones hairy back while I tried to enjoy my Big Mac during the summer months.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 26, 2007 at 12:42:46

Yeah, it's hard enough to enjoy a big mac in the best of circumstances. :-))

I know it's my namesake but this is another no brainer the city just can't get its act together to pass. Mitchell and Ferguson and Pearson should be ashamed of themselves. People are dying while they screw around and keep trying to delay this thing. You know what's heavy-handed? Trying to take a breath when it feels like someone's sitting on your chest. Maybe a bout of emphysema would give them some perspective on the rights of those poor drivers who just want a nice warm (in a few months, nice cool) car to drive in. Assholes.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted March 27, 2007 at 12:49:20

The Tims at Mud and 20 can EASILY survive without a drive thru. In fact, I believe there'd actually be an increase in the level of service. Numerous times I've stopped off there to grab a cup of java and parked my car, walked in and bought my coffee and entered my vehicle again before the car at the end of the line has even gotten to the speaker. And that's with sometimes double staff working the drive thru window. As for the Tims at Stonechurch and U. James, who's idea was that... If the drive through was eliminated then there'd be more parking. The one that's in the gas station is rather pointless anyway since it's less than a minutes walk to the door of the neighbouring full size Tims.
On the point of tsunamis, earthquakes and global warming... Brian and Nin are right about the cause of them however, global warming causes a rise in ocean levels and this will increase the devastation caused by them as they will have the ability to travel further up the coast and further down waterways in the immediate path.

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