University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Urban Grime Rate

Study finds hazardous pollutants

Outlawed toxins like PCBs and other contaminants are lurking on the outside of your window, and they could be dangerous to your health. In a study of urban areas in southern Ontario and the United States, Professor Miriam Diamond and her colleagues in the department of geography found hazardous pollutants in the film on windows of buildings. The chemicals, which come from vehicle, residential, industrial and commercial emissions, can be transported thousands of kilometres through the air. “The film and its contaminants indicate the mixture of chemicals to which we are exposed every time we breathe and eat vegetation grown in urban soil,” says Diamond. “We need to be cautious about growing vegetables downtown.”

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