Editorial Archive

Office of the Chief Executive

Commission seal 5/25/17 6:00 AM

Update on TTC air quality study

Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday (May 23), TTC management met with three of our unions to discuss the recent air quality study undertaken by Health Canada and to address demands that employees, such as Operators, be permitted to wear respirators.

I proposed that the already planned subway air quality study be expedited with a terms of reference drawn up and shared with the unions for their feedback within the next two weeks. That was accepted. The terms of reference will be used to hire a company to assist us in assessing subway air quality and any health impacts that may exist – something the Health Canada study explicitly did not do.

TTC employees who work in areas that require respirators today are provided with those, and any and all personal protective equipment necessary to keep them healthy and safe. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law. What we will not permit, however, is the wearing of an off-the-shelf mask where the science does not support the need.

We must be guided and informed by science on this matter, not emotion. Facts matter.

Since the Health Canada study in 2011, a number of measures have been implemented, and continue to be addressed. The Toronto Rocket trains’ HVAC systems, for example, are in the roof of the trains, lessening the amount of particulate matter intake from track level. Track and track-side wall washing continues to help reduce the amount of particulate matter in tunnels and stations, and, a new vacuum car with a gold-standard HEPA filter comes online later this year, further reducing the amount of particulate matter in the subway.

It is very unfortunate that a university, in an attempt to gain some media attention, compared the air in our subway to that of Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world. While the comparison is easily debunked, it has caused unnecessary alarm for many.

I look forward to getting this study underway and sharing the results with all of you. The TTC will take whatever action is necessary based on the study’s recommendations and findings.

Andy Byford
Chief Executive Officer
May 24, 2017

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