Video shows concern over air quality on TTC
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017 4:00PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 16, 2017 7:03PM EDT
Toronto Transit Commission workers should be allowed to wear masks to protect themselves from poor air quality in the city’s subway system, according to the union that represents front-line employees.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 released a new video on Tuesday, which draws attention to a recent study into the air quality in the subway system and criticizes the TTC for refusing to address the problem or even allow employees to wear protective masks.
The University of Toronto and Health Canada study found that the average amount of particulate matter in Toronto’s subway tunnels and platforms is equivalent to the air quality of smog-prone Beijing on an average day.
“For far too long, the TTC has ignored its workforce’s longstanding concerns about subway air pollution. Through our new video, we want more Torontonians to understand the significant health risks subway workers are exposed to on a daily basis – sometimes up to 12 hours a day,” ATU Local 113 Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Morton said in a press release. “No matter what the TTC says, it’s unacceptable for subway workers to sneeze and cough out filthy black dust after a shift. The TTC needs to acknowledge there is a problem and act now to protect workers.”
The study into the air quality in Toronto’s subway system was conducted in 2010 and 2011 but was only released on April 25.
One day after the release of the study four TTC workers were sent home after they showed up for their shifts wearing medical masks.
At the time, the TTC said that the Ministry of Labour was called in to investigate and ruled that the air quality is “not likely to endanger” workers.
The union, however, has said that employees who have concerns about the air quality in the subway system should be allowed to wear protective masks.
Furthermore, the union has said that the TTC was participating in an illegal lockout when it prevented the employees who wished to wear masks from doing their jobs.
In the video released Tuesday, a narrator slams the TTC for ignoring air quality issues that are putting workers at risk.
“The high level of air pollution includes metal particles. These particles can be associated with an increased risk of heart and respiratory disease, reduce lung function and can even cause cancer,” the narrator says. “Subway workers are exposed to this up to 12 hours a day, every day. Enough is enough.”
The release of the two-minute video comes one week ahead of a meeting between the union and management to discuss the air quality issue.