ttc subway air quality

Experts say TTC subway air quality is bad for human health

No one likes breathing in the recycled, stale air present on the city's subway platforms and in subway cars, and Toronto Public Health is now recommending that measures be taken to improve subway air quality.

A new report from Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa explains that overall, taking the subway is beneficial for the health of Toronto residents. 

"Taking the subway is a health-supportive way to travel, especially as an alternative to personal vehicle use," the report states.

"It is associated with fewer injuries than driving, reduces outdoor air pollution and greenhouse gases, promotes physical activity and provides access to employment, education and social/community services."

And yet, it's far from perfect. 

The report, which will be presented at a January 13 Board of health meeting, notes that fine particulate matter air pollution (known as PM2.5) is present in indoor and outdoor air as well as public transit systems in other cities. 

But, as stated in the report, levels of PM2.5 in Toronto's subway system warrant mitigation because "reductions would have health benefits for passengers."

It explains that levels of PM2.5 are currently elevated in the TTC subway system and contain high levels of some metals — particularly on Line 2. 

"While a high-level jurisdictional scan shows that Toronto is demonstrating leadership in addressing subway air quality, a continuous improvement approach should be adopted by the Toronto Transit Commission Board to ensure ongoing assessment and improvement of subway air pollution levels in Toronto," notes the report. 

In light of these elevated levels, Toronto Public Health is recommending the implementation of multiple measures to reduce exposure to PM2.5 levels in the subway system. 

Both short-term and long-term measures are recommended and could include anything from employee training, to reviewing TTC operations to identify where PM2.5 exposure can potentially be reduced, to ongoing air quality monitoring.

"The TTC thanks Toronto Public Health for its review and concurs with the report’s recommendations for short and longer term measures to improve subway air quality for our employees and customers," TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a statement. 

He added that "over the past three decades, the TTC has addressed air quality levels with the introduction of new vehicles, improved ventilation and filtration systems."

"We remain fully committed to continuing our world-leading efforts in air quality mitigation by monitoring the effectiveness of our actions to date and ensuring mitigation is factored in to all aspects of our subway operations and procurement."

Lead photo by

LRayG


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