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Welcome to The Last Breath, this is a website where we discuss issues that are detrimental to the human anatomy. Our goal of the website is to promote action in reducing air pollutions that has become a main concern of the 21st century. The main topics to be discussed within the contents of this website are: smog and asthma. As you read further you will soon become aware that smog causes asthma and may cause premature lung damage, ultimately premature death. We hope you take the opportunity to read the TESTIMONIES from victims of asthma and see how it has affected their lives. As you read further you will begin to realize the adverse affects smog has to the human health.

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To begin we must understand the fundamentals of air pollution, its contributors, how can we tell if there is good air quality, etc. In the following report is brief but the main concepts are stated: what a lichen (indicator of air quality), smog and asthma is and most importantly, how they are all related.

What is lichen?

A lichen is a member of the Fungi Kingdom which contains a fungus and an alga or a blue-green bacterium and grows on pavement, tree barks, rocks and many other places.

Important Characteristics of Lichens and their Relationship to Air Quality:

•Contain no protective cuticle
•Absorb all the require nutrients from the surrounding air
•Extremely sensitive to air pollution(especially SO2) due to their efficient absorption systems
•Excellent indicator of air quality

There a variety of different lichens but for our research of air quality we observed 8 types of lichens:

1. Physcia millegrana
2. Parmelia sulcata
3. Xanthoria fallax
4. Physcia adscendens
5. Punctelia rudecta
6. Flavoparmelia caperata
7. Candelaria concolor
8. Candelariella efflorescens

1. 2. 3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8.

What was done in the field trips?

For each of the sampled trees:

•Tree circumference and distance to nearest tree were measured
•An area between 120cm and 150cm above the tree was marked
•All of lichens in the selected area of the sampled trees were identified
•Occurrence: the presence/absence of the eight lichens and other unknown lichens were determined
•Abundance: estimations of how much in percentage each lichen covers out of the total selected area were made
•The facing direction of greatest abundance for each lichen was determined
•A sketch of the site was made

Representation important values:

Sensitivity (Q values)

•Is how sensitive a lichen is to air pollution
•Determine by the numbers of other different lichens that are found on the same tree as a given a lichen
•The higher the Q values, the more sensitive lichen is to air pollution.
•The least sensitive lichen is Candelaria Concolor and the most sensitive is Punctelia Rudecta
(see table in Microsoft Word Document, available for download below)


•How frequent a lichen is found in a site
•Indicates by the occurrence(presence/ absence) and abundance (amount of area covered by a lichen specie of part of sampled tree)
•Some of the least sensitive lichens (concolor and millegranna) are found in both in town and out of town sites. However, some most of the more sensitive lichens are only found in the out of town site which indicates that the air quality is better out of town.
(see table in Microsoft Word Document, available for download below)

IAP (Index of Atmospheric Purity)

•Equals to the product of net sensitivity and frequency
•Allows one to compare the overall conditions which include occurrence, abundance, frequency, and sensitivity of lichens at different locations
•The higher the IAP the better the air quality
•The average IAP in out of town sites are much higher than those of the in town sites. In other words, the air quality is much better out of town.
(see table in Microsoft Word Document, available for download below)

To observe the data for lichen research of certain sites please click here: Lichen Data (Microsoft Word Document)

From the IAP data it is evident that in town sites (ie. Greater Toronto Areas) have worse air qualities than those of the out town sites. The reason for this will be explained in the following.

What is Smog?

-smog is a brown-yellowish haze

Components of Smog

-airborne particles
-ground level ozone

How is smog formed?

NO2 + Sunlight → NO + O

O + O2 → O3

Contributors of Smog

-gasoline and diesel powered vehicles
-factories ad utilities
-oil-based paints, solvents and cleaners
-road paving (asphalt) and construction
-pollutants carried by the wind from pollution sources in the USA
-coal-fired power generation stations

In TORONTO, motor vehicles are the largest source of harmful air pollutions.

The map above shows the three sites that were visited and lichen data was obtained for those trees.

The three sites were:

1. Parma Park
2. Stan Wadlow park
3. Cullen Bryant Park The IAP for the three sites were:

1. Parma Park IAP = 59.9
2. Stan Wadlow park IAP = 107.31
3. Cullen Bryant Park IAP = 103.94

Recall: Higher the IAP, the better the air quality

In this case Stan Wadlow Park is the one site with the highest IAP, suggesting that the area has the best air quality. The reason for such a high IAP is because of its surroundings. It was the furthest one away from the DVP and the park was situated within a residential area in which not as many motor vehicles pass by.

Cullen Bryant Park has the second highest IAP but it does not mean it has the best air quality. It had a high IAP because of the high abundance of a lichen. The average number of indicator spieces (number of lichens) was the lowest compare to the the other two sites, suggesting it has bad air quality because of the small variety of lichens.

Parma Park with the lowest IAP is due to the fact it was situated in a very busy area. Meaning major streets (Victoria Park Ave., St. Clair, and 2nd closest to DVP) and the highway cause the poor IAP results. As mentioned earlier, in Toronto, motor vehicles are the largest source of harmful air pollutions. It is evident with the results from Parma Park. Since it was located near a major intersection more cars pass by and affects the air quality in that surrounding area.

With this knowledge of how air quality is affected by pollutants such as motor vehicles, the impacts it has on the Earth, economic and especially in humans is detrimental.

Environmetal Impacts

-ground level ozone at 0.1 ppm reduce the ability of plants to adequately carry out photosynthesis is reduced by a factor of more that two (Environmental Chemistry, 2000)

Economic Impacts

-GTA hospitals spend over $282 million due to air pollution-related illnesses

-Ontario Medical Association predicts that smog-related illnesses will cost Ontario more than $1 billion every year

Health Impacts

-Ground level ozone and particulate matter, the main components of smog, are responsible for 1,900 premature deaths annually in Ontario, along with 9,800 hospital admissions and 13,000 emergency room visits (Ontario Medical Association, 2000)

-1 000 Toronto residents die each year due to air pollution (ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and sulphates), while 5,500 are hospitalized (Toronto Public Health, 2000)

-GTA hospitals spend over $282 million due to air pollution-related illnesses(Ontario Medical Association, 2000)

-ground level ozone is that it is now documented it causes childhood asthma, and not simply trigger asthma attacks (California Air Resources Board, 2002)

-Ground level ozone at 0.1 ppm reduce the ability of plants to adequately carry out photosynthesis by a factor of more than two (Environmental Chemistry, 2000)

-the Ontario Medical Association predicts that smog-related illness will cost Ontario more than $1 billion every year (book tong got-forgot name)

What is Asthma?

-a condition where the airways narrow due to hyperreactivity to allergens and stimuli During an Attack

-muscles of airways spasm and contract
-increased mucous secretion, making breathing difficult

Normal Breathing

Constricted Airways


is triggered by:
-poor air quality
-animal fur/hair/feathers/dandruff
-cold air
-tartrazine (food colouring)
-sulfites: preservatives found in alcohol

How Does Smog Affects Asthma?

For this section a diagram of the lung is needed to explain how smog cause adverse affects in the respiratory system.

- acts as filter
- 50% of ozone pollution and 90% of SO2 is filtered
- particles may penetrate the filtration system

Chain Reactions
- smog triggers a serious of events
- burning of the eyes and the throat, and chest pains
- rapid, shallow breath

- airways covered with tiny hairs, called cilia
- cilia beats in rhythmic pattern
- ozone particles change pattern of cilia, mucus cannot be moved on -- lungs cannot be cleaned

- site of gas exchange
- ozone damage cell walls of alveoli
- cells can be repaired but can cause premature aging of lungs
- macrophages can devour soot, bacteria, and viruses but damage by ozone can leak chemicals

Who is Affected?


With much analysis of smog and asthma, it is overt that smog has become an increasing concern due to the health affects it has on humans. The government has taken this into consideration and has signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, in hopes that this will help reduce the health problems that has arised.

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

-uncontrolled use of fossil fuels
-adverse affects on human health due to smog and poor air quality, lead to international agreements
-also increase of global warming
-Canada signed on April 28, 1998 goal to reduce by 6%

Canada Up to Date

-more energy efficient buildings, homes, vehicles, and appliances
-financial support for public transportation to upgrade (TTC)
-Toronto, cut 70% of energy use, through repair of building and procedures


With changes comes conflict. Signing the Kyoto Protocol took considerable amounts of thorough decision making because of the supporters point of view and the opposition, this will be explained in the following:

Groups against Kyoto and Montreal protocols

-government was hesitant to sign on because of economic factors: they hold stakes in many companies
-- the company’s success means greater profit for government, therefore they do not want to hinder the company’s operations in any way.

-The same reasoning applies to the companies that governments don’t have a stake in : taxation is directly proportional to revenues

-Companies also have the power to relocate their plants and take business elsewhere: government loses money –- unemployed individuals need welfare, etc.

-Companies need to spend significant amounts of money on upgrades and improvements to meet new government guidelines: not every company is willing to spend that sort of money

-Many scientific communities and other skeptics want to see a direct correlation between air pollution and related diseases and problems: unfortunately, there is a lack of interest and funding for research into such areas

-Communities which are dependant on plants for income will oppose the conditions, because they will be most affected by the changes (e.g. : lay-offs, etc.)

Groups for Kyoto and Montreal protocols

-environmental activists, environmental-health activists, medical professional : it promotes their cause, and brings to attention the actual severity of the issue of air pollution

-concerned and informed individuals: YOU!


-use public transit, car pooling, walking or cycling
-purchasing fuel-efficient vehicle, and employing a regular maintenance routine
-deter from unnecessary use of gasoline-powered vehicles and machines, such as motorbikes, motorboats and gas lawn mowers
-at home, use energy efficient appliances
-support environmental advocacy groups

From the research we have gathered, we've come to discover that something else needed to be done. So here we are. We hope this website will enlighten people about our pollution problem and that we have to start doing something within our communities and hopefully bring the problem to the residents of Toronto and eventually to the government. Despite the actions the government has done, it is not enough. So with this website we hope to collect testimonies from victims of asthma and these testimonies will be like a verbal petition in which we hope that it will grab the attention of . We hope you will contribute to the website by sending your comments or write a testimony about how asthma affects you and what disadvantages you are at. Please send your comments and testimonies to:

To read these testimonies please click here:


Information and pictures are provided by a variety of different photographers and organization/authors: REFERENCES