Breathing In: Monitoring Downtown Air Quality - NRU Publishing

Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – Toronto Edition, Vol. 20 No. 12, Thursday, March 24, 2016.



Leah Wong
NRU Publishing Inc.
March 24, 2016


With help from residents, the Toronto Environmental Alliance is heading downtown in April to monitor the impact of ongoing development and intensification on street-level air quality in the core.

“The reality is that we have a lot of high towers in the downtown core. What we understand is that this can create channels for air pollution where there isn’t really anywhere for the pollution to go,” TEA campaigns director Heather Marshall told NRU.

The alliance’s air monitoring project—the Initiative for Healthy Air and Local Economies (INHALE)—is focused in on the downtown core, with residents given air monitoring equipment to collect data on levels of street-level pollution. TEA then examines the data to assess street-level air quality in different parts of the study area.

“With more and more people living in the downtown core and not necessarily having green space to turn to for exercise…we see more people jogging in the downtown core and doing intensive activities,” said Marshall. “It would be helpful to understand what kind of air they might be breathing in.”

The study area—bordered by Dupont Street (north), Lake Shore Boulevard (south), Don Valley Parkway (east) and Bathurst Street (west)—is the second location for the INHALE project. Monitoring in South Etobicoke, the first study area, wraps up next week and TEA will start to work with local community members to utilize data collected over the last 10 months. [See NRU February 13, 2015 Toronto edition.]

For example, Marshall said TEA will work with local community groups in South Etobicoke to see how the data can be used to guide environmental interventions to improve air quality. TEA is working with Cycle Toronto’s Ward 6 advocacy group to demonstrate how
additional bike infrastructure could be installed to improve air quality. Marshall also recommends that INHALE’s data be used as evidence when the city considers a proposal to fi ll in the gap in bike lanes along Lake Shore Boulevard.

In downtown, as in South Etobicoke, Marshall sees opportunities to assess the contribution of additional bike infrastructure on air quality. For example, the city is expected to conduct a pilot project on bike lanes on a portion of Bloor Street West in the summer.

“Segments of that [corridor] will have a bike lane being tested,” said Marshall. “This will be an exciting opportunity for us to hopefully collect some data before the bike lane goes in, as well as while it’s in [place].” NRU

As originally published: Breathing In: Monitoring Downtown Air Quality” by Leah Wong