Health and Welfare
indeed I did last year. A careful perusal of the resolution in the form in which it is now presented by the hon. gentleman I think will indicate that my colleague the Minister of Justice will have an interest in the matter as the resolution has been amended this year to provide that there should be necessary amendments under the Criminal Code to provide penalties against owners or operators of all diesel powered vehicles or railway engines for failure to equip such vehicles with some suitable device to render harmless, poison gases emitted from the exhaust of such vehicles or engines. The Minister of Justice will deal with this aspect of the problem but I should like to deal with those aspects which are of special concern to the Department of National Health and Welfare.
As I said last year, the resolution presented by the hon. gentleman serves to underline the increased attention which is now being given by health authorities to problems in the field of environmental health. As the hon. gentleman himself well knows, for many years now the Department of National Health and Welfare as well as provincial and local authorities have carried out measures to safeguard human health by ensuring the safety and purity of drinking water, foods, drugs and insecticides. As a matter of fact, the Food and Drugs Act is possibly the oldest continuing statute that comes under federal control and it deals with many aspects of the problems which have been included in the fields covered by the resolution presented by the hon. gentleman. As he himself has noted, more recently problems relating to the air we breathe have come under the surveillance of governments, both national and provincial and in some cases municipal; and in the case of the United States and Canada the matter has received some measure of international attention.
Air pollution, of course, has been an inevitable accompaniment of industrialization and the growth of our large cities. My hon. friend made reference to the work of Dr. Warwick, formerly director of the Canadian cancer institute. I do not know that I would be justified in drawing the conclusions that he has drawn but I can say that under the national health program funds have been put at the disposal of the national cancer institute and, through it, to the various medical centres in Canada to undertake research in respect of the matters from which he has drawn such strong deductions.
As he himself has pointed out, in the Detroit-Windsor area the Department of National Health and Welfare in co-operation with the Ontario department of health, the department of health of the city of Detroit
and the board of health of the city of Windsor carried out one of the most extensive investigations into the relation between air pollution and human health ever undertaken anywhere. This was a study that lasted over a period of years. It represented pioneering efforts and the results of the study, which are now being carefully assessed, we trust will yield information of value to health departments everywhere. It may be that, as a result of the information which we acquire from this study that is now being undertaken in both countries, it will be possible for us to make certain assessments about the environment in which we live, particularly in industrial centres.
The subject matter of the resolution introduced by my hon. friend, however, relates to one aspect of the over-all problem of air pollution-what I have been saying has been in reference to general aspects of the whole problem of pollution-and this problem, I may assure my hon. friend, as he well knows, is the matter of considerable study and attention by the officers of the occupational health division of the Department of National Health and Welfare, who, in conjunction with experts in several universities in Canada, have been giving careful and devoted attention to this matter. There is no doubt that the operation of diesel engines in certain situations, especially in mining operations, in tunnels and in more or less confined spaces, represents a danger to health. The control of this hazard in such cases is usually achieved by the installation, as I indicated last year, of adequate ventilation facilities. In stationary type engines the exhaust gases must be removed by piping into appropriate exhaust gas ventilators or ducts for disposal of such fumes. It is possible that the operation of such vehicles or engines in the open atmosphere may constitute a hazard to public health in the areas of dense traffic and population. My hon. friend will be interested in knowing, if he is not already aware of the fact-and I am sure he is-that at Harvard University, considerable studies are being carried out in this general field.
This phase of the problem, in addition to what is being done at Harvard, is now, as I indicated last year, under intensive investigation in the Los Angeles area, and also by the automotive industry in both Canada and the United States. Last year I said it was under investigation only in the United States but since the matter was discussed here steps have been taken and the industry is now engaged in studies of this problem.
The waste products of internal combustion engines include unburnt fuel or hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, aldehydes and oxides of nitrogen, as well as carbon, soot, tarry material and other products, including water vapour. I do not know whether my hon. friend mentioned water vapour but my technical officers advise me that that is the fact.
I am further advised that the theory has been put forward in the Los Angeles area that smog is formed to a major degree by the interaction of such hydrocarbon waste products with oxides of nitrogen in the presence of oxygen and sunlight. Such chemical interactions of pollutants may be related to eye irritations and other health effects that have been observed, and some crop damage sustained in the Los Angeles area.
My hon. friend, in this connection, spoke of cancer and I hesitate to speak too firmly on that aspect because conclusions will be drawn from what I say. However, researches that are being carried on carefully take into account the possibility, as was done in the case of other suggested provocations having to do with the alleged cause of lung cancer. It is known that in the immediate vicinity of diesel engine exhaust the concentration of aldehydes and oxides of nitrogen may be sufficient to produce considerable eye, nose and throat irritation; that is a known fact. The other is conjecture, and as my hon. friend nods, he will indicate that a conjecture is possibly more freely open to him than it is to me because of the technical advice which, as Minister of National Health and Welfare, I must act upon. But I do suggest it is important for us to realize that we can give false directions by drawing conclusions that may possibly be understandable but which, in the absence of control, it is best, certainly from my point of view, to leave to the research scientists.
Various control methods to meet the problem which my hon. friend properly mentions have been suggested, and suggested for the reduction of the toxicity of the various gases from internal combustion engines. These include systems for treating exhaust gases, such as catalytic exhaust converters, which we discussed last year, after-burners, absorbers, condensers and filters. Likewise, other proposals concern systems which modify engine operating conditions such as manifold vacuum control, deceleration fuel cut off, ignition timing control and recycling of exhaust gases and fuel injection.
I feel it is only right to point out that objectionable visible smoke and fumes may be reduced greatly by improved maintenance
Health and Vfelfare
practices and here the municipality and industry itself have an opportunity to make a contribution to this important problem, a problem that is becoming increasingly important with the number of large cities that are being created in this country and with the increase in population of the cities now in being. In this connection my hon. friend will be interested, as I know the house will be, that there is under way an investigation by the automotive industry itself covering such proposals as a change in the design of cylinder combustion chambers, carburetors, and intake manifolds. The research centres of at least two of the large automobile companies are making very serious efforts to deal with this particular problem in their own factories, and are pooling their research, their evidence and their conclusions, with the people in my own department and with others who are likewise engaged in these problems in Canada.
It has been shown in both field and laboratory tests by the Los Angeles air pollution control district that approximately 7 per cent of all fuels used by automobiles are discharged unburnt into the atmosphere. Of course, this does constitute the greatest single source of hydrocarbon loss in that community, and I presume as well in other areas. The fact is that, notwithstanding the urgency, notwithstanding the importance of the problem, I am adviced by my officers that no success has yet been achieved in securing the development of a control device suitable for controlling the emission of exhaust gases from automobiles.