Pollution Levels and Traveling via Subway | Oxygen Plus

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Commute by Subway? Grab Your Oxygen Plus!

December 31, 2017 4 min read

Commute by Subway? Grab Your Oxygen Plus!

Lauren Carlstrom, O+ Team Member |

It is estimated that, worldwide, there are more than 120 million people who commute daily (Amato). The demand and need for public transportation continues as people move to larger cities. Typically affordable and convenient in expensive metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto, commuting by train or subway is part of many city-dweller’s daily grind.


In addition to providing convenience and an affordable means of transportation, subways pay a vital part in urbanization by reducing air pollution and traffic in larger cities. While the reduction of air pollution is a positive outcome, one ironic aspect of commuting by subway that is causing concern – and researchers to actively study – relates to the air quality for people commuting by subway. Researchers are wondering, how harmful is the air quality in a subway system to commuters? And researchers are also asking, what are the contributing factors to the noted levels of air pollution in subways that millions of people breathe in each day?

What's in the New York City and Toronto Subway Air? 

Let’s take a deep breath of what the researchers are exhaling about the subway air in Toronto and New York City. A study conducted by Health Canada, McGill University, and the University of Toronto recently published – in the Environmental Science & Technology journal – found that “concentrations of fine dust matter in the subway system are roughly 10 times the level found outside TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) stations.” The levels of particles were found to be much higher on the platform than in the train, which has a filtration system to mitigate the exposure. Fine dust matter, by the way, is air pollution or particulate matter (PM) that is so small – finer than a single hair on your head – that is inhaled, usually undetected by the naked eye, but often visible from a distance or on the horizon, such as the haze seen in Los Angeles or China. Speaking of China’s infamous air quality, TTC researchers described the air pollution in the Toronto subway system as being “typical of an average day in pollution-choked Beijing” (Spurr).

In a recent CNN report that explores the subway air New York City commuters breathe underground uncovered that “much subway particulate matter is sourced from moving train parts such as wheels and brake pads, as well as from the steel rails and power-supply materials, making the particles dominantly iron-containing.” One particulate matter found in the TTC subway systems, PM2.5, is associated with serious health problems (lung disease), and Health Canada guidelines advise concentrations of PM2.5 should be kept as low as possible. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that “particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.”

Is Commuting by Subway Safe? 

Although recent research shows the subway may have higher air pollution levels than the ambient air outside the station, more research is needed to definitely state if and how the health of commuters is affected. Interestingly, and rightfully so, several studies on this subject – at subway stations – are ongoing. The Health Canada study is “part of ongoing work to measure air quality in commuter environments, which represent a significant daily source of pollution exposure for millions of Canadians.”

Unfortunately, at present, the harmful effects that air pollution may cause for subway commuters remains a lingering concern, and a potential serious threat to human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 38,000 people in the United States die annually from air pollution and poor air quality. Moreover, some of the less serious effects of poor air quality – like a foggy feeling in your head – can be a nuisance and drain to everyday life.

Travel with Oxygen Plus In Your Pocket

Oxygen Plus can help mitigate some of the negative effects of exposure to air pollution, because it provides your body pure recreational oxygen – in a sleek, portable hand-held canister – anytime you feel a need to catch a breath of fresh air.

As Oxygen Plus would rather live in a world where pollution wasn’t an issue – so we wouldn’t have to hear the comparison to the movies "The Lorax" or "Space Balls"– we hope pollution levels at subways will continue to be monitored to ensure commuters are able to travel, and breathe, safely. Until this research is finalized and necessary governmental measures are taken, we are grateful to provide a convenient way to combat the effects of poor air quality. Oxygen Plus’s portable canisters are perfect for travel, and a canister easily fits in your backpack, purse or briefcase. So breathe well, and get where you’re going – with more zest in your breath – while mitigating exposure to high pollution levels with Oxygen Plus.


Amato, Fulvio and Moreno, Teresa. “Commuting by subway? What you need to know about air quality.” CNN The Conversation. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/25/world/commuting-by-subway-one-square-meter/index.html. Retrieved Dec. 20, 2017.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. Particulate Matter (PM) Basics. https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics. Retrieved Dec. 29, 2017.

“Air Pollution.” World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/airpollution/en/. Retrieved Dec. 20, 2017.

Spurr, Ben. “TTC subway system 10x more polluted than outside, study shows.” The Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/04/25/ttc-subway-system-10-times-more-polluted-than-outside-study-shows.html. Retrieved Dec. 20, 2017.

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