While many Torontonians are keeping count of how many medals Canada has won during the PanAm Games, TEA’s keeping score of something else: how Toronto’s air quality is performing.
Monday July 13th was the worst day yet, with an Air Quality Health Index reading of 5 and a forecast of up to 7, which put athletes in a moderate to high health risk situation. The AQHI reaches as high as 10, but most days in Toronto score around 3.
Athletes competing and training outside need to be aware of the local air quality, because air pollution can directly impact their performance. With only 4 air monitoring stations in Toronto run by the Ministry of Environment, TEA has regularly raised concern over the lack of air quality information being collected at the local street level where people live, work and play.
Fortunately, innovative air monitoring projects are changing how we keep score of the air we breathe!
There's an app for that
If you have a smartphone, you can now receive air quality alerts using Toronto Public Health's Weather Active App. It's Apple and Android compatible and free to download. The app gives you the latest air quality score, the weather forecast, and even tells you where to find places to cool down to beat the summer heat.
The University of Toronto launched AirSENCE just in time for the PanAm Games, which adds an extra 9 air monitoring stations in Toronto. These low-cost air monitors were designed and built on the UofT campus in their chemical engineering department. The air monitors have been set up in places near PanAm locations to inform athletes and visitors of the current air quality readings and what level of health risk the pollution poses. Areas along the Lakeshore like Palais Royale, the CNE grounds, High Park and the Toronto Islands have monitors and so does the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. There are also monitors along the 401 Highway and DVP, which may help to monitor any changes in transportation pollution during the Games.
Visit UofT's interactive AirSENCE map to view the recent air quality readings across Toronto: http://airsensors.ca/
TEA has been collaborating with UofT's AirSENCE developers for over a year. We've been connecting them with communities and they've been providing technical advice on our very own street-level air monitoring project: INHALE. By strapping portable air monitors and GPS units to baby strollers and bicycle handlebars, local residents in South Etobicoke have literally become mobile air monitoring stations! All of the air quality data we are collecting this summer will soon be mapped online, thanks to Ryerson University's Kevin Worthington (who also designed the AirSENCE map).