Health Aspect of Drive-thrus in relation to our current obesity crisis
in North American society, including Canada, which has reached
unprecedented obesity rates, particularly in children.

As a predominantly North American phenomenon, the drive-through
culture has been widely maligned as a major cause of obesity. In a
2004 issue of American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a study found
that an extra 30 minutes in the car each day translates into a 3
percent greater chance of being obese. A Washington Centre for Law and
Public Health paper (2006) addressed the use of zoning to restrict
access to fast food outlets as a strategy to reduce obesity. The cost
of acquiescing on this issue is enormous. Furthermore, it is our
responsibility as a city, as adults, as caregivers, to protect
children, who are the most vulnerable in our society – completely
dependant upon adults and adult decisions, from such detrimental
health impacts.

Until we find the political will to place a moratorium on drive-thrus
(which hopefully we will see happen first in London resulting in a
domino affect across Canada & then the globe) to mitigate against
climate change and pollution, we must, until this time, take the
necessary precautions. These health impacts must be a consideration
in all aspects of zoning and planning by-laws.


Cory Morningstar

Council of Canadians | London Chapter


Childhood Obesity – the Fastest-growing Cause of Disease in Canada

Over the last 25 years, we have witnessed an alarming rise in the
proportion of overweight and obese children. Obesity rates among
children and youth have nearly tripled during this. It is an issue
that affects children everywhere in Canada – across the country and
across diverse populations.

The economic costs are also significant. Direct and indirect costs
associated with obesity have been estimated at $4.3 billion in 20011.
Health Risks

Childhood obesity is a particular concern because excess weight over
time increases the risk of developing chronic health problems.

Obesity is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and
stroke, as well as for type 2 diabetes. Unhealthy weights, combined
with risk factors such as age, family history and the presence of
other health conditions, such as high cholesterol or high blood sugar
levels, can greatly elevate the risk of developing a wide range of
chronic diseases including:
hypertension or high blood pressure;
coronary heart disease;
type 2 diabetes;
sleep apnea and other breathing problems;
some cancers such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer; and
mental health problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.

Exhaust pollution kills 440 each year, report finds


Exhaust pollution kills 440 each year, report finds

Thirty-per-cent drop in traffic would save nearly 200 lives and $900-million in health costs, city’s medical officer of health says


November 6, 2007

Exhaust from the tailpipes of cars, trucks and buses in Toronto is responsible for about 440 premature deaths each year, mostly of elderly people, and a massive $2.2-billion bill for health costs, a new report says.

The city’s medical officer of health, David McKeown, unveiled the study yesterday, suggesting that a 30-per-cent reduction in traffic in the city was possible and would save nearly 200 lives and $900-million in health costs.

City officials and political allies of Mayor David Miller, who has made fighting climate change a central theme, insist they are starting to enact measures that will reduce traffic in the city.

They point to the Toronto Transit Commission’s $6-billion “Transit City” plan for 120 kilometres of new light-rail lines to be built by 2021 as the centrepiece of efforts to change travel habits, along with measures to redesign streets to be more inviting to cyclists and pedestrians.

But some transportation policy experts said the idea that Toronto could actually reduce car use by as much as 30 per cent is highly unlikely any time soon, no matter what the city or the provincial government does.

“Is their heart in the right place? Yes. How they can actually do it is another matter,” said transportation consultant Edward Levy, who sat on a brainstorming panel for the new Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, which is to come up with a plan for the region. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

He said decades of suburban sprawl and a long-standing record of starving public transit that has left buses overcrowded and infrequent mean it will take generations to shift travel patterns. “You can be anti-car all you like, but if you don’t have the public-transit alternative that makes sense, people aren’t going to use it,” Mr. Levy said. “… It’s all about service.”

Toronto Transit Commission chairman Adam Giambrone, a key council ally of the mayor, said yesterday that the city’s light-rail plans would make a major difference to air quality.

He said the new lines, spanning the city’s inner suburbs, as well as planned expansions of the Yonge and Spadina subways into York Region, can move tens of thousands of new riders out of their cars – provided the funding promised by the provincial government and hoped for from Ottawa arrives. Shovels could be in the ground by 2009, he said.

“Now what has to happen is that money has to flow … because otherwise they remain just lines on the map,” Mr. Giambrone said.

The report cites city data showing that over the past 20 years, traffic in and out of Toronto has risen by 75 per cent, with 67 per cent of trips consisting of a lone driver in a car.

Yesterday’s report uses mathematical modelling to measure the amount and types of pollution caused by cars, plugging the numbers through a Health Canada system to determine how many of the previously estimated 1,700 premature deaths linked to air pollution can be attributed to motor vehicles.

In addition to the estimated 440 premature deaths blamed on tailpipe emissions, the report says traffic is to blame for as many as 1,700 hospitalizations related to air quality, most involving elderly people. The bad air worsens respiratory ailments and heart problems, the study says.

Children, too, feel the effects, with an estimated 1,200 cases of acute bronchitis a year caused by traffic pollution. Children are also more likely to suffer from asthma, and the report blames 68,000 “asthma symptom days” each year in Toronto’s population on tailpipe emissions. It also found 67,000 “acute respiratory system days,” when people suffer from coughing, wheezing and other symptoms.

In addition, the study estimated that pollution from vehicles accounts for 200,000 “restricted activity days” or days spent in bed or cutting back on regular activities because of respiratory problems.

Two Extraordinary Papers on Health

This is extraordinary… worth the quick-see read. It is of value because of the doctors options to see exercise as a need and that the current urban environment is just not being correctly adjusted to promote exercise and health. Beautiful presentation.

This goes to the core of one of the other options that an anti-drive thru approach should be doing – which is how do you build a sense of community with coffee shops located for cars and not people, not only do we not get local gathering places but how we want people not to walk in the car park.



Study links traffic pollution to thousands of deaths

About this article

This article was first published on on Tuesday April 15 2008. It was last updated at 16:13 on April 15 2008.

A Birmingham university report has identified a ‘strong correlation’ between deaths by pneumonia and traffic emissions in England. Photograph: Andy Butterton/PA

Thousands of people in England have died from pneumonia caused by pollution, a report suggested today.

There is a “strong correlation” between deaths, engine exhaust fumes and other transport-related substances, according to the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Professor George Knox, emeritus professor at the university of Birmingham, looked at details of atmospheric emissions, published causes of death and expected causes of death from 1996 to 2004.

The data, gathered from 352 local authority areas in England, was used to calculate the impact of pollution on death rates.

He wrote: “Correlations with pneumonia deaths were exceptional. High mortality rates were observed in areas with elevated ambient pollution levels. The strongest single effect was an increase in pneumonia deaths.

“Road transport was the chief source of the emissions responsible although it was not possible to discriminate between the different chemical components.”

In total, 386,374 people died from pneumonia in England during the eight-year period but there were widespread regional variations.

In the 35 (10%) local authorities with the highest disease-specific death rates, there were 53,821 pneumonia deaths. This was 14,718 more than the expected national rate, the study showed.

Calculations revealed that pneumonia, peptic ulcers, coronary and rheumatic heart diseases, lung and stomach cancers and other diseases were associated with a range of combustion emissions.

Other relevant factors were social deprivation, smoking, binge drinking and living in the north of England. When the social factors were taken into account, the data still revealed that deaths from pneumonia were strongly and independently linked to emissions, with the exception of sulphur dioxide from coal burning.

Knox said many of the pneumonia deaths were probably caused by “direct chemical injury”.

“Total annual losses as a result of air pollution, through pneumonia, probably approach those of the 1952 London smog,” he added.

“Excess deaths assigned to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and rheumatic heart disease, two diseases with chronic respiratory inadequacy, can also be interpreted as directly contact toxic.

“The excess deaths from lung and stomach cancers and peptic ulcers are more difficult to interpret but the same pollutants may have acted as adjuvants to other agents, facilitating their access to sensitive tissues.

“The lung cancer and stomach cancer associations were identical in men and in women, reducing the likelihood of a specific occupational effect.”

Canadian Physicians for the Environment

130 Spadina Avenue, Suite 301 Toronto,ON  M5V 2L4

Tel: 416-306-2273  Fax: 416-960-9392

June 20, 2008

London City Council

City of London

300 Dufferin Ave., London ON N6A 4L9

RE: Physicians Support Moratorium on Drive-Thrus

Dear Members of Council,

I am writing on behalf of the 3,000 members of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment to support a moratorium on drive-thrus in the City of London.

We are taking this position because we are very concerned about the climate change and smog effects associated with car exhaust as automobiles pass through these facilities.

Recently, a group of more than 1,700 prominent American scientists and economists  –including six Nobel Prize winners — released a joint statement calling on policymakers to require immediate, deep reductions in heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming. The statement marks the first time leading U.S. scientists and economists have joined together to make such an appeal.

The statement stresses that implementing policies to achieve swift and substantial emission cuts is economically sound as well as vitally necessary to limit the worst consequences of climate change.

“There is a strong consensus that we must do something about reducing the emissions that cause global warming,” said James McCarthy, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and one of the statement’s authors. “The debate right now is about how much we need to cut. The fact that so many scientists and economists have spoken out and signed this letter should give policymakers the confidence that we can avert serious adverse climate impacts.”

Climate science has demonstrated that the climate is changing and will continue to change over the rest of this century due to greenhouse gas emission from human activities – primarily the use of fossil fuels.  One of the major contributors to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions burden is road transportation

As well, we are concerned about cars’ toxic emissions. Vehicles are the primary source of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and benzene, a carcinogen. In the past 15 years alone, there has been a fourfold increase in asthma in children under 15 in Canada.

In Ontario, the number of “smog days” nearly quadrupled from 15 in 1995 to 53 in 2005. If nothing is done to clean the air, medical experts estimate that by 2026 the number of smog-related premature deaths in Ontario alone will hit 10,000 annually. The combined health care and lost productivity costs are expected to exceed $1 billion. Pollution is a particularly serious issue for London, the city with the province’s second highest number of smog days.

London has a chance to be an environmental leader by surpassing Toronto’s drive-thru legislation and adopting a full moratorium on new applications. We encourage you to make this decision as it will truly protect the health and well-being of your residents.

Thank you for considering this request.


Gideon Forman

Executive Director

A Message from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health


An epidemic of overweight and obesity is threatening Ontario’s health. I am alarmed to report that, in 2003, almost one out of every two adults in Ontario was overweight or obese. Between, 1981 and 1996, the number of obese children in Canada between the ages of seven and 13 tripled. This is contributing to a dramatic rise in illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and some cancers.

Why this epidemic? In part, it is caused by our genes or our lack of willpower. Yet, in the 21st century, our environments increasingly are responsible for tipping us into overweight and obesity.

We are now living in ‘obesogenic’ environments, communities, workplaces, schools and homes that actually promote or encourage obesity :

  • many young people do not have the opportunity to be physically active every day and are surrounded by ads promoting soft drinks and snack foods
  • more adults work in sedentary jobs and drive long distances to work
  • ‘super-sized’ food portions are the norm
  • more communities lack sidewalks, park space, bike lanes and recreation programs
  • more people do not have enough income to make healthy food choices

As a society we have lost the balance between the energy we take in and the energy we expend, which is key to a healthy weight. Just when Ontarians are faced with more food choices, more processed foods, and larger food portions, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives, replacing it with remote controls, computers and video games.

We have made our generation the most sedentary in history.

In this report, I set out a plan to promote healthy weights in Ontario. The goal is to help all Ontarians understand the factors that affect their weight and find the right balance between the food they eat (energy in) and how physically active they are (energy out), and to create environments – day care centres, schools, worksites, recreation centres, communities – that promote physical activity and healthy eating.

The province’s health system is committed to reversing the trend to overweight and obesity, but it cannot solve the problem on its own. Because physical, social, cultural and environmental factors have such a strong influence on weight, Ontario needs a broad, multi-sectoral, community-wide response to this epidemic.

I call on all levels of government, the health sector, the food industries, work places, schools, families and individuals to become part of a comprehensive province-wide effort to change all the factors that contribute to unhealthy weight. We must act now to create communities that promote healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Healthy weights mean healthy lives.

(original signed by)
Dr. Sheela Basrur
Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy Minister

Document download
2004 Chief Medical Officer of Health Report
Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives
76 pages | 2.6 MB | PDF format

The Staggering Numbers

Worldwide Statistics: Eight thousand people a day die from air pollution. There are 3 million annual deaths, worldwide. In Canada toxic emissions from transportation continue to rise drastically. Vehicles are the primary sources of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and benzene, a carcinogen. In the past 15 years alone, there has been a fourfold increase in asthma in children under 15 in Canada. In fact, the Ontario Medical Association estimated that health care costs caused by poor air quality in 2000 would amount to nearly $630 million, not to mention the $566 million in costs due to workers taking sick days. We are in a world wide public health crisis epidemic as a direct result of air pollution amidst a climate change crisis that threatens human survival on this earth – expanding services which promote unnecessary idling for convenience is not only reckless and irresponsible – it is the absolute opposite direction we need to be taking.