Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Environment

Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP)

In 2016, Public Health Ontario released an interactive web report and infographic on the topic of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP). This report provides a definition for TRAP, highlights some of the key health impacts from TRAP, describes recent trends in TRAP across Ontario and identifies some of the populations most at risk to the health impacts of TRAP.

From 2003 to 2016, the average annual concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) overall, and nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in particular, pollutants which are associated with traffic, decreased significantly at the Barrie monitoring station; however, the annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5; another traffic-related pollutant) did not change significantly over this 14 year time-period. Decreases in air pollutant concentrations can be attributed to reductions in emissions from both vehicles and industrial sources. Despite improvements in overall air quality, those who spend large amounts of time on or near major roads and highways, including commuters, remain at risk of high exposure to TRAP.

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Living within 100 m of a major road or within 500 m of a highway is considered to be within the TRAP exposure area and is associated with the onset and worsening of asthma in children as well as other adverse health outcomes. In Simcoe Muskoka in 2011, less than one-in-five (17.6%) residents lived in a TRAP-exposed area, which was lower than the one-quarter (27.8 %) of the overall Ontario population that lived inside TRAP-exposed areas. Children, seniors, and people with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to the adverse health effects related to TRAP exposure. Many institutions that serve these vulnerable populations, like elementary schools and long-term care homes for seniors, are located with-in a TRAP-exposed area.

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TRAP Exposure and Commuting

Persons who commute on or near major roads and highways, whether in their own vehicle, via public transit, or through active transport, are exposed to higher concentrations of TRAP. In-vehicle concentrations of major air pollutants including PM2.5 and NO2 are similar to on-road concentrations, both of which are considerably higher than concentrations measured at air monitoring stations removed from high traffic areas. Active transport, via walking or cycling, along major routes also leads to higher exposure to TRAP, exacerbated by exercised-induced increased respiration.

The average time spent commuting to or from work in Simcoe Muskoka was 27.3 minutes in 2011, similar to the average for all of Ontario of 27.6 minutes. Simcoe Muskoka residents tend to spend slightly less time (13.0 minutes) commuting via active transport than the provincial average (14.9 minutes), but spend slightly more time commuting via car, truck or van, or via public transit.

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