U of T Researchers Reveal the Most Polluted Neighbourhoods in Toronto

It turns out you could be breathing better air than your friend across town. 

In the (anti?) spirit of Earth Week, researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T) are letting us know which Toronto neighbourhoods are the most polluted.

The study – which won’t be officially released to the public until June – includes a map that indicates pockets of pollution across the T-Dot. It shows heightened pockets of air pollution in the following areas:

– Around highway 427 and Highway 401 near Pearson International Airport

– The Don Valley Parkway and Highway 401

– Steeles Avenue and Highway 400 near the campus of York University

– Steeles Avenue and Highway 404 in the Hillcrest Village neighbourhood 

– The Queensway and Highway 427 in Etobicoke.

The map also shows smaller pockets of air pollution in the Eglinton Avenue and Don Valley Parkway area, the Lawrence Heights and Lawrence Manor neighbourhoods south of Highway 401, and in the downtown core near where the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway meet.
What does this mean for you?

If you live near multiple roads, you could be exposed to 10 times more pollutants than someone not living near any major roads, according to the study. 

“We used to think that living near a major road meant that you lived near a lot of air pollution,” said University of Toronto Chemical Engineer Greg Evans in a press release. “But what we’re finding is that it’s not that simple, someone living right on a major road in the suburbs may not be exposed to as much pollution as someone living downtown on a side street near many major roads.”

This challenges previous research that shows that poor air quality is usually detected between 100 to 250 metres of major roadways. The U of T researchers, in contrast, found that pollutants from traffic are still double the usual level at a distance of 280 metres downwind from Highway 400.

In Toronto, half the residents live near at least one major road, compared to 1/3 residents who live elsewhere in Canada. 

The study reveals that we need to start measuring air quality on a micro scale, especially around major roadways, compared to the current focus on the regional or city level.

The findings of the University of Toronto researchers will be published in the June edition of the academic journal Atmospheric Environment.


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