TTC to expedite air quality study on Toronto’s subway system

A 2010-2011 study claims that the TTC's subway system is 10 times more polluted than the streets of Toronto. Stephen C. Host / File / The Canadian Press

The TTC will hire a third party to study the effects of particulate matter (pollution) in Toronto’s subway tunnels.

The study, agreed to by delegations from the TTC and three local unions on Tuesday, is likely to happen in June and will focus on hot spots in the system where workers may be exposed to high levels of pollution.

The move expedites a planned air quality review from the TTC this year after both parties expressed concern over a 2010-2011 Health Canada and University of Toronto study released in April which showed particulate matter in the city’s subway system was 10 times more polluted than the air outside.

READ MORE: High levels of pollution found on TTC subway system: study

Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, told AM640’s Morning Show that pollution research currently at hand is “impractical” due to the fact that conditions have changed since the study’s test period.

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“Hopefully, we can get this started in June and gradually get the results,” said Morton, “We are going to target specific areas and certain jobs in the tunnels so we can get these results quicker and not wait a whole year for the results.”


Currently, the TTC does not allow subway operators to wear respirators while working in the system citing an investigation in which the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) ruled that work in those areas was “not likely to endanger” an operator.

READ MORE:  TTC operator taken off the job for refusing to remove mask after air quality report: union

In a statement in April,  TTC CEO Andy Byford called the 2010-2011 study “regrettable” in comparing air quality on the TTC to that of Beijing, one of the planet’s most polluted cities.

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“Doing so, frankly, has caused harm to the TTC’s reputation and unnecessary alarm for some TTC employees.” said Byford, “The TTC had already committed to its own air quality assessment and will begin that study later this year.”

Byford also stated “that the introduction of new subway trains and refurbishment of HVAC systems on older subway trains have helped mitigate and reduce particulate matter on trains.”

READ MORE:  Job action possible over subway air quality: TTC union

But Morton from the ATU says the use of masks would benefit its TTC members. “We believe the mask would help, not totally eliminate, but would eliminate a lot of the PM2.5 (pollution) particles.”

TTC spokespeople told AM640 that the timeline and scope of the study has yet to be determined in the terms of reference.

Morton says the union is expecting the terms in about two weeks.

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