Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Car Washing is Illegal in Toronto

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Did you know that it is illegal to wash your car in your own driveway? Most of us have heard about the Toronto by-law that is attempting to protect the city’s waterways from harmful pollutants. What many people don’t realize is how much pollution washes off of cars and into our rivers. Pollution such as anti-freeze, road salt, grease, rust, detergents and other pollutants run off into our storm sewers which flow untreated into our rivers and ultimately into Lake Ontario. As we all know, Toronto gets a huge percentage of our water from Lake Ontario itself.

Water quality is a huge environment factor almost everywhere. Everyday, pollutants which are very harmful are washed into Toronto’s waterways. Pollutants from car-related waste, fuels, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, sediment, and litter eventually flow untreated into Lake Ontario. These pollutants have a negative impact on the river’s habitat, as well as the city’s drinking water. Chemicals such as nonyphenol ethoxylates are known to cause hormone damage. These are found in many detergents used in domestic car washes. What is the penalty? Well, offenders will be given a warning on the first offence however, if they repeat the violation, they will be fined. Illegal dumping fines can run as high as $10,000 for individuals, and $50,000 for companies. Average fines for individuals however, are between $00 and $500.

Riversides is the name of the environmental group that proposed the ban. Their concerns stem from the facts that urban run-offs carry sediments, pesticides, salt, pet waste, oil and grease untreated into lakes and rivers. Since storm wate r sun-off is the biggest source of pollution in Ontario lakes and rivers, and 75% of the water flowing in Toronto area rivers come from storm and sanitary sewers, this poses a great threat to our water supply.

One of the reasons as to why car washing is specifically targeted as a concern is because of the chemicals called Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Nonylphenol ethoxylates have been used for over 40 years in many sectors such as steel manufacturing, oil and gas recovery and power generation, etc… NPEs are also used in cleaning products, degreasers and industrial detergents as well as soaps and cleaners. Nonylphenol (NP) and NPEs have been found in water, sediment, wastewater, sludge and soil. The presence of NP and NPEs in the environment is solely due to industrial and human activity.

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Acute adverse effects from exposure to NP and NPEs have been reported in invertebrates, fish, mammals and algae. Very low concentrations of NP have been shown to be lethal to the winter flounder. These are just a few examples of the serious effects NPEs can have on our environment.

NPs and NPEs are a class of chemical which are hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors interfere with our bodies’ natural hormone systems and cause a wide variety of health problems. Hormone disruptors often act by imitating our natural hormones. Our bodies are “fooled” by these toxins, which can bind to the same sites to which natural hormones bind, thereby altering, magnifying, or blocking the function of the natural hormones. NPs and NPEs have been identified as a possible endocrine disrupting substance which is capable of interfering with the development and reproduction of fish and wildlife.

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