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Researchers from Simon Fraser University warn of deadly role that air pollution plays in heart disease

Vancouver, Dec. 7, 2016 – Funding from CIRA's Community Investment Program supports new online outreach material from the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas.
By Tanya O'Callaghan
Senior Manager, Communications

Vancouver, Dec. 7, 2016 – Funding from CIRA’s Community Investment Program supports new online outreach material from the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas.

Vancouver, Dec. 7, 2016 – Researchers at Simon Fraser University have produced a new video to warn about how exposure to air pollution, especially toxic particles, can increase the risk of death from heart disease. These findings were presented in the latest video in a series from the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas, a project based at Simon Fraser University that aggregates environmental data and its impact on public health, to present it in a meaningful way online.

The video, The Deadly Impact of Airborne Particles, will be released tonight at the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

With funding from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA) Community Investment Program, researchers have developed a new video to help raise awareness about the risks of environmental toxins. Having access to credible data on environmental hazards can encourage people to advocate for stronger public health measures. By helping people understand the impact of air pollution – which is largely outside of their individual control – the creators of the videos hope people will advocate for changes in their community to reduce levels of pollutants.

The video, The Deadly Impact of Airborne Particles, is available here:   

Key facts

  • Air pollution is a mixture of gases and toxic particles. Each of the particles is invisible, but collectively they create a dense, visible smog that is deadly. Most people understand that air pollution causes damage to their lungs, but it is also a major risk factor for heart disease.

  • Air pollution is causing premature deaths worldwide. During the London Fog of 1952, half as many people died from air pollution than from aerial bombings of London during the World War II. Last month, the Indian government declared a state of emergencyrelating to air pollution in New Delhi.

  • Using three cities, Vancouver, London and Beijing, the film illustrates how the per cent of heart disease deaths from air pollution increase as the levels of pollution increase. The video illustrates how three million deaths could be prevented if levels of pollution were lowered to those found in Vancouver.

  • The Canadian Environmental Health Atlas was initiated in 2009 by a multidisciplinary team at SFU and other Canadian universities to advance knowledge on environmental health. The goal of the project is to make scientific research accessible to Canadians and researchers through interactive tools, videos, maps, and graphics.

  • CIRA’s Community Investment Program provided funding to support this project and aid in the development of online resources to make the data more accessible to Canadians. Through a series of online animated videos, important environmental and health data can be made widely available to Canadians, policy-makers and researchers to help inform decision-making and ultimately improve public health outcomes.

Executive quotes

Our goal is to help people understand how their environment can have a substantial impact on their health. We all know about the power of diet and exercise in promoting health, but the effects of energy production, urban design, and environmental regulation are also important. A comprehensive public health response will need to include improvements to our urban environment that promote cleaner air.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University

The goal of CIRA’s Community Investment Program is to provide resources to organizations using digital technology to improve the lives of Canadians. Ensuring access to credible, evidence-based health information is available online aligns well with this objective. The issues explored by the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas are not simple, but Dr. Lanphear and his team are demonstrating the powerful role that plain language, compelling visuals, and clear explanations can have in making research accessible via the web.

David Fowler, VP of marketing and communications at CIRA

Additional resources

  • More information on the Atlas, and to stay informed of new research and resource materials, visit them online at

About CIRA and the Community Investment Program

Through the Community Investment Program, the Canadian Interet Registration Authority (CIRA) funds projects that demonstrate the capacity to build a better online Canada. The CIRA team manages Canada’s country code top-level domain on behalf of all Canadians. A Member-based organization, CIRA represents the interests of Canada’s Internet community internationally. To date, the Community Investment Program has supported 78 innovative projects across Canada with grants totaling $3.2 million.