air quality study

Campus-Community Partnership for Reducing Air Pollution in the Bathurst Quay Neighborhood

During spring/summer 2019, representatives from BQNA met with the research team from the University of Toronto, Ports Toronto, the City of Toronto and identified the following project objectives:


Understand population exposure and the contribution of different sources (e.g., from the airport, highways, arterials, regional background, etc.) to air pollution in the neighbourhood.

Disseminate knowledge that can help inform planning/policy regarding land-use, transportation, and airport operations — How do we envision a more livable and sustainable neighborhood?

Notes: Citizen scientist buildings highlighted in yellow; potential main air pollution sources highlighted in red

Exposure assessment and source contribution

The research team has put together a plan for air quality data collection that involves:

  • Installing fixed monitors at rooftop and ground level at different locations in the neighborhood

  • Conduct mobile sampling to better map near-road air pollution

  • Conduct indoor/outdoor monitoring using low cost sensors

Fixed monitors at rooftop
UrbanScanner mobile sampling
Low-cost sensors
Low-cost sensors

Benchmarking and planning remains crucial because of proposed increased airport activity in the future. How can we grow more sustainably?

Source: 2018 Airport Master Plan (Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, 2018)
Source: Restart and Recovery of Air Service: Overview (Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, 2021)

Preliminary findings

Trends between indoor and outdoor levels

  • Fine PN counts are generally higher outdoors.

  • Indoor levels increase during cooking, cleaning, exercise, opening windows.

  • There is a variability in indoor and outdoor levels across homes.

Fine PN concentrations measured indoor and outdoor at citizen scientists' homes

Example of variability between balconies in one week

  • We see that the levels measured on the balconies in the same building (Arcadia) had peaks simultaneously, while the Northwest-facing balconies experienced higher peaks.

  • This indicates that highway traffic is one of the major sources of air pollution in the neighborhood.

A time series of measured PN concentrations measured at different citizen scientists' homes

Visualization of traffic and airport contribution

The polar plot (below) of outdoor PM indicates that the highest concentrations (highlighted in dark red) are associated with wind at low speed blowing from both the highway and the airport. 

A polar plot of outdoor PM concentration

Deeper dive into pooled together air quality and flight data

next steps

We are seeing a hotspot coming from the airport direction in the polar plot indicating a general trend, but more detailed monitoring is required, and three actions planned for future data collection:

  • Data on taxiing, idling

  • Measure a wider range of species associated with airport emissions, such as ultrafine particles

  • Need a fixed ground-level and rooftop monitoring network

Three time-series plots of pooled together air quality and flight data

Past events information

BQNA public meeting May 2021
BQNA public meeting Jan 2022
BQNA public meeting Sept 2022