The neighbourhood you choose to live in could have a big impact on the quality of air you are breathing, according to a soon-to-be released study by researchers at the University of Toronto.

A map produced as part of the research shows that there are large pockets of air pollution around Highway 427 and Highway 401 near Pearson International Airport as well as the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 401, Steeles Avenue and Highway 400 near the campus of York University, Steeles Avenue and Highway 404 in the Hillcrest Village neighbourhood and The Queensway and Highway 427 in Etobicoke.

The map also reveals smaller pockets of air pollution in the Eglinton Avenue and Don Valley Parkway area, the Lawrence Heights and Lawrence Manor neighbourhoods south of Highway 401 and in a swath of the dowtnown core near where the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway meet.

“We used to think that living near a major road meant that you lived near a lot of air pollution,” University of Toronto Chemical Engineer Greg Evans said in press release. “But what we’re finding is that it’s not that simple, someone living right on a major road in the suburbs may not be exposed to as much pollution as someone living downtown on a side street near many major roads.”

Previous research on air pollution has shown that poor air quality is usually present between 100 to 250 metres of major roadways, but the University of Toronto study found that pollutants from traffic are still double the usual level at a distance of 280 metres downwind from Highway 400.

According to the study, someone living near multiple roads could therefore be exposed to 10 times more pollutants than someone not living near any major roads.

In Toronto, about half of residents live near at least one major roads, compared to one-in-three residents elsewhere in Canada.

“It used to be that we measured air quality on a regional or city scale. But now we’re starting to understand that we need to measure air quality on a more micro scale, especially around major roadways,” Evans said.

The Canadian Medical Association has previously said that about 21,000 deaths each year can be attributed to air pollution.

The findings of the University of Toronto researchers will be published in the June edition of the academic journal Atmospheric Environment.

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