Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Dr. Isaac Luginaah and Dr. Joy Parr

Abstract

This thesis examines cumulative exposures to traffic noise and outdoor air pollution on environmental and health related quality of life in Windsor, Ontario, and provides a critical analysis of the environmental assessment process for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study. The research utilizes a systemic risk framework to understand environmental health and stress effects of cumulative exposures. The significance of this research is based on a relative absence of literature on the systemic health risks of cumulative exposures and the need to elucidate environmental annoyance as a health outcome for risk assessment. The objectives of the research were to (1) Demonstrate the impact of high volume traffic facilities on the noise annoyance dose-response; (2) Evaluate the effect of cumulative exposures and odour annoyance on noise annoyance; (3) Conceptualize and test a model for annoyance as a health outcome of multiple exposures, and; (4) Critically appraise the capacity of environmental impact assessment to address environmental health in megaproject planning.

Data from a community survey (n=610) in 2013 were combined with spatial data exposures to traffic noise and ambient nitrogen dioxide. Bivariate analyses, multivariate regression and structural equation modeling were used for the quantitative analysis. Document and media analyses were used to construct stakeholder discourses on environmental health and risk perceptions of relevance to the DRIC Study. The results of an ordinal location-scale model used to predict noise annoyance demonstrated a dose-response effect of noise, significant interactions between noise and air pollution, and a strong confounding effect of odour annoyance. A structural equation model for environmental and health related quality of life indicated that noise annoyance had a negative impact on functional mental and physical health, and that odour annoyance and levels of co-exposure were important covariates. The results of the quantitative analysis corresponded with community discourses on environmental health during the DRIC Study. Further analysis showed that the environmental assessment process obfuscated community health risks and stakeholder participation, lending support to the utilization of systemic risk perspectives and integrated environmental impact health assessments in megaproject planning.

The DRIC study findings were in disagreement with public perceptions and previous research that demonstrates strong contributions of border traffic to air pollution and significant associations between air pollution and health in Windsor. The results of this thesis complement these findings by showing that ambient stressors in Windsor and in the environmental context of the DRIC megaproject had a systemic effect on health. This provides a unique contribution to the environmental health literature on cumulative effects of exposure to environmental noise and ambient pollution. It also provides a methodological contribution to systemic health risk assessment for measuring impacts of multiple environmental exposures on health related quality of life. For future research on environmental health the results warrant explicit consideration of multiple exposures and their combined effects as ambient stressors.