Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Work on a rail tunnel in Toronto leaves residents covered in dust

Metrolinx, the agency coordinating and integrating all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is continuously expanding its transit network. One particular project that has received media attention recently is the work on the rail tunnel for the Union Pearson Express, an airport rail link service that will run between Canada's two busiest transportation hubs: Union Station in Downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The residents of Weston, a neighborhood in the northwest end of Toronto, are facing new challenges this summer: the constant rumble of trucks, excavators and other heavy machineries, their exhaust gases and the dust. A thick layer of dust covering everything and making its way inside buidings.

The constant noise and the dust affected the residents and the business community, raising concerns about the air quality.

With dust particles infiltrating homes and offices, the lungs are constantly exposed to danger. The effects of inhaled particles depend on the properties of the particles themselves, their size and their chemical composition.

Particle size is a critical factor that determines where in the respiratory tract that particle may be deposited. Chemical composition is important because aside from their potential toxicity, some substances can also impair the ability of the lungs to clear themselves.

A major concern to local communities is the risk of exposure to crystalline silica contained in airborne dust present on construction sites. Any activities involving cutting, breaking, crushing, drilling, grinding or blasting of sand, rock or stone, clay, concrete, masonry and paint may produce fine silica dust. The silicon dioxide (SiO2) in its crystalline form poses a serious health hazard and it is linked to silicosis, a disabling and irreversible lung condition. The silicon dioxide has also been classified as a Group I carcinogen (Carcinogenic to Humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Chronic silicosis is a cumulative and sometimes fatal condition, with symptoms including shortness of breath, cough and weakness. Affected individuals frequently experience fever, weight loss, chest pains and eventually respiratory failure. Exposure to crystalline silica has also been linked to lung cancer, reduced lung function and kidney disease.

Despite being recognized as a significant health hazard, over the last 20 years an estimated 15,000 people have died from the effects of silicosis in the United States alone.

Unfortunately, the common methods for controlling construction site dust emissions (surface wetting and airborne capture) are generally limited, helping reduce the amount of dust but unable to completely eliminate it.

Using a high quality air purifier unit can improve air quality and reduce the health risks.
The BioScan Series of office and residential air purifiers engineered by Quatro Air Technologies  (1.877.978.2876) use medical grade HEPA filters and activated carbon filters to clean the air and reduce the risk associated with poor indoor air quality.

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