Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Steel City: Hamilton, Ontario

Steel City: Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton’s steel manufacturing base and long-standing concern with industrial emissions have made the city the site of some sustained environmental justice research (Figure 1)1. In 2003 Buzzelli and other researchers2 found that levels of total suspended solids (TSP)—the mass concentration of particulate matter in air—had declined consistently in Hamilton from 1986 to 1996 because of diminished industrial output and stricter emissions regulations. Still, socioeconomic disparities between the most-exposed and least-exposed neighbourhoods persisted.

Annual TSP air pollution was measured using air monitoring stations located in Hamilton’s north-eastern region, where heavy steel manufacturing predominates. The investigators identified several socioeconomic variables that predicted greater exposure and risk of adverse health effects among residents of Hamilton (Figure 2). Greater-than-average risk (relative risk above 1.0) was found in neighbourhoods with a higher proportion of single-parent families, higher unemployment rates, and lower housing values. In another study of air pollution in Hamilton, Buzzelli and Jerrett3 found that neighbourhoods in Hamilton with large populations of Latin American immigrants were disproportionately exposed to TSP.


  • 1. Dear M, Drake J, Reeds L (eds). Steel city: Hamilton and region. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; 1987.
  • 2. Buzzelli M, Jerrett M, Burnett R, et al. Spatiotemporal perspectives on air pollution and environmental justice in Hamilton, Canada, 1985-1996. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 2003;93:557-573.
  • 3. Buzzelli M, Jerrett M. Racial gradients of ambient air pollution exposure in Hamilton, Canada. Environment and Planning 2004;36:1855-1876