Metro Vancouver’s regional air quality has continually improved over the past several decades, but a new national Near Road Air Quality Monitoring pilot study confirms that concentrations of air contaminants are higher near major roads.
More than one million Metro Vancouver residents – nearly half the population – live within 250 metres of a major road, according to the study, which was conducted by Metro Vancouver with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the University of Toronto.
The study helped to determine public exposure to air contaminants such as fine particulate matter, black carbon, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, ultrafine particles, and volatile organic compounds. Vancouver monitoring stations were located near Clark Drive and East 11th Ave, along a major truck route and a comparison site away from traffic near Slocan St. and East 22nd Avenue.
Owing to a variety of factors, the Clark Drive station, showed similar or higher concentrations of certain contaminants compared with the Toronto station on Highway 401, despite experiencing a lower volume of traffic. The results were thought to be largely attributable to the ratio of large trucks on Clark Drive rather than the total traffic volume.
As a result of the findings, Metro Vancouver is looking to develop a program to reduce emissions and exposure to traffic-related air pollutants. Diesel particulate matter emissions have long been a focus of Metro Vancouver’s air quality programs, since they have been assessed as carcinogenic, and contribute approximately two-thirds of the lifetime cancer risk from exposure to air pollution in the region.
Metro Vancouver is currently developing an updated Clean Air Plan, which will identify opportunities for accelerated emissions reductions in our region, including near major roadways. These emissions reductions align with Climate 2050, Metro Vancouver’s long-term strategy to support achieving a carbon neutral and resilient region by 2050.