Home > Campaigns > DeTOx Toronto > Air Quality study shows cumulative health impacts

Air Quality study shows cumulative health impacts

South Etobicoke Local Air Quality Study [2014] 

On Wednesday January 15th 2014, the City of Toronto released their second Local Air Quality Study report in a series of 18 that will cover every neighbourhood in the city. The South Etobicoke Local Air Quality Study has identified an increased risk of cancer in the community due to air pollution. The major source is transportation emissions from cars & trucks.

While it may not be surprising to learn that Highway 427 and the Gardiner Expressway are impacting the health of South Etobicoke residents, we now know exactly which toxic substances to target for pollution prevention.

Eight cancer-causing chemicals were found at levels of concern in the air and five substances exceed the Provincial government's air quality limits.

8 Carcinogens of Concern in South Etobicoke

  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Benzene
  • Benzo[a]pyrene
  • Chromium (VI)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Tetrachloroethylene

5 Chemicals Exceed Air Quality Limits

  • Benzene
  • Benzo[a]pyrene
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Particulate Matter 10
  • Particulate Matter 2.5

Look up the health impacts of these chemicals (courtesy of Toronto Public Health).

The South Etobicoke Local Air Quality Study suggests that there is an increased cumulative risk of cancer in the area as a result of the air pollution. The estimated risk is at minimum 44 people in 1 million because one cancer-causing substances (benzo[a]pyrene) and some ChemTRAC reported business emissions have not yet been included in the analysis.

Rather than experience 'toxic shock', TEA wants residents and City Council to spring into action. There are solutions out there! We need more and better public transit service so residents can leave their cars at home, stricter emission standards for fuel, real-time air quality monitoring where people live, and economic supports to green local businesses. We can help prevent cancer by preventing pollution.

Click here to access South Etobicoke Local Air Quality Study results.

Don't live in South Etobicoke? Every community in Toronto will benefit from an air quality study, but this will take years for the City to complete. Get a head start by visiting ChemTRAC to look up local sources of toxic emissions in your neighbourhood.


South Riverdale Local Air Quality Study [2012]

On Monday February 27th 2012, the Toronto Board of Health discussed the results of a groundbreaking air quality study completed by the Toronto Environment Office for Toronto's east end (Wards 30 & 32).

This map shows distribution of cumulative risk of mortality from Criteria Air Contaminants - the blue area on the left is along the Don Valley Parkway.

The study, An All Sources Cumulative Air Quality Impact Study of South Riverdale - Leslieville - Beaches, was published in July 2011.

The first of its kind, the study looked at the cumulative impacts of various sources of air pollution from both local, provincial and US sources. The study not only pinpointed local areas with the highest levels of pollution it also assessed the associated health risks such as respiratory diseases and cancer.

More information:

The Toronto Environment Office and the Board of Health worked together to fill in some of the major gaps in environmental pollution data and related health risks.


By far the largest source of air pollution is coming from the Don Valley Parkway and the fuel exhaust from vehicles is contributing to an elevated risk of cancer and an increased risk of premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in this community.
Taking public transit is likely the single most effective way to reduce emissions.

The next major source of air pollution is from industry near the Port Lands and the recommendations put forward by the Board of Health will enable the Toronto Environment Office to engage the Ministry of Environment in monitoring, controlling and reducing emissions in the area.

Reference: Golder Associates report, Appendix C

Next Steps

In April, Council will be presented with the report and the Board of Health recommendations. Council will also decide whether to approve the location of the next study - South Etobicoke (Wards 5&6).

The concentration of benzene emissions along major highways shown in this map shows that transportation is a major source of air pollution. 

TEA will advocate to see more of these studies in other parts of the city -- Let us know if your community might need an air quality study and why!