A new study suggests that sitting in close proximity to the diesel engine of a GO Train, may be detrimental to your health.
U of T Engineering have completed a study on the effects of airborne pollutants discharged from the large diesel engines used in the trains and have concluded that a person sitting in a passenger car right behind the locomotive that’s in “pull mode” would endure significantly elevated levels of pollutants.
When a GO locomotive is in front of the passenger cars and pulls the seating cars behind it, it expels diesel exhaust towards riders as it travels down the track.
The study which used two types of portable instruments, one that detects black carbon (BC) and one that detects ultrafine particles (UFP), showed that the two elements formed when gasses in an exhaust condense into microfine particles creating a carcinogen.
The breathable gas, which has particles no bigger than 100 nano meters (or about 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), is associated with negative respiratory, cardiovascular and reproductive health effects.
Professor Greg Evans (ChemE), director of the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research (SOCAAR), on AM640’s Kelly Cutrara show, said the levels of exposure that one might experience in a GO Train very much depends on where they sit and how the train is being operated.
“I commute from Ajax in the morning, when I’m coming in, the train is in what we call “push” mode with the locomotive at the very back, and the air quality is very clean,” said Evans. “On the way home, the train will be in the “pull” mode with the locomotive at the front, if you are in the cars right behind the locomotive, that’s where the highest concentrations of diesel exhaust are registered.”
Evans says the concentration of carcinogens in this circumstance would be much higher than anything else a typical person would be exposed to in a day.
“We all experience elevated concentrations dependent on how we commute whether it’s in subways, busses, or sitting on the highway (in a car), but this is quite elevated compared to those.”
Evans and associate Dr. Cheol-Heon Jeong reached out to Metrolinx, which owns and operates GO Transit, after the results of the study. He says officials from the transit agency were a little surprised.
“Their response has been fantastic,” said Evans, “They took it very seriously. They have been looking at taking steps ever since then to improve the air quality.”
Evans and his team are currently working with Metrolinx and SNC Lavalin to test new improved filters for the air intake vents, and are considering a long term solution like electrification which should eliminate the issue.
“I would advise pregnant women and passengers with heart or respiratory health problems not to travel in the front car,” said Evans. But he would not necessarily suggest avoiding the train entirely.