April 9 | 2018

Socio-economic inequalities in exposure to industrial air pollution emissions in Quebec public schools

Emmanuelle Batisse, Sophie Goudreau, Jill Baumgartner, Audrey Smargiassi

Can J Public Health. 2018 Jan 22;108(5-6):e503-e509. http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.108.6166


OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the relationships between deprivation at Quebec public schools, their proximity to polluting industries, and their exposure to industrial air emission sources including ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

METHODS: We obtained four indicators of school deprivation using data from the 2006 Canadian census called the low-income threshold indicator, the neighbourhood SES indicator, and the social and material deprivation indicators of Pampalon. Using proximity spatial tools, we constructed three buffers of 2.5, 5 and 7.5 km around each school and summed up total emissions of PM2.5, SO2and NO2 for each school. Industrial air emissions were estimated using data from the 2006 Canadian National Pollutant Release Inventory. The Pearson correlations and LOESS regressions and natural log-transformed industrial air emissions were evaluated for Quebec public schools within the three buffers.

RESULTS: Of the 2189 public schools in Quebec, 608 (27.8%), 1108 (50.6%) and 1384 (63.2%) schools were located near at least one industry emitting one or more pollutants of interest in buffers of 2.5 km, 5 km and 7.5 km of schools respectively. Weak positive Pearson correlations (r) were found between log-transformed tons of industrial emissions of PM2.5, SO2 and NO2 and both the social deprivation (r = {0.23; 0.33}) and low-income threshold (r = {0.17; 0.29}) indicators in a buffer of 2.5 km. However, we found negative associations between emissions and the neighbourhood SES (r = {0.06; 0.16}) and material deprivation (r = {−0.04; 0.08}) indicators.

CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that schools in Quebec with higher rates of socio-economic deprivation among their students may be more likely to be exposed to higher emissions of industrial air pollutants.