Testing Toronto’s indoor spaces for virus transmission risk

Nearly 130 locations in downtown Toronto have been tested for indoor air safety using new technology, including the CityNews newsroom. Michelle Mackey has the top and lowest ranked spaces.

By Michelle Mackey

Toronto is participating in what’s being billed as the first ever city-wide program to test and rate the indoor air quality of spaces where people work, shop, and gather.

The City is partnering with BreatheEasy, which uses a 20 minute rapid air safety test to determine air quality ratings.

“So what the system does it releases droplets into the air that are like human breath, and they move the way that human breath does in the space and are cleared by HVAC filters, by air purifiers, by the native air motion and air system in the building as well as natural ventilation,’ explains Sam Molyneux, the co-founder of BreatheEasy. “What the sensors do is they measure how quickly these particles are cleared from the space.”

BreatheEasy vapour system. CITYNEWS

So far, almost 130 locations in the 50 busiest blocks of downtown Toronto have been tested to provide a vivid day-in-the-life view of airborne infection safety and risks.

Among the top performers are Scotia Plaza, Atrium on Bay, and the Intact Centre at 700 University Avenue which serves as the head offices of Ontario Power Generation and Intact Financial.

Another top performer is co-working space, IQ.

“We started using that technology as a way of creating really safe spaces,” says IQ CEO Kane Willmot. “It is a way to take the invisible and make it visible. So we are able to find out if there are airborne contaminants in our space, also do swabbing as well throughout our space to see if there is any COVID, or any sort of bacteria.”

On the City’s partnership, Mayor John Tory says in part “With BreatheEasyTO we’ve shined a light on the safe City of Toronto environments we’ve created for the public and public workers through our investments in ventilation over the past three years, as well as the places we will keep improving.”

According to BreatheEasy’s public ratings, one area that need improving is the PATH near First Canadian Place.

To schedule a free rapid air safety test at your Toronto business, go to breathe.city/freetest

The public is also being invited to vote for spaces they want tested in Toronto. You can do so at vote.breathe.city.

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