Toronto noise levels prompt concern from city's medical officer of health

Anyone who lives here knows Toronto can be one noisy city, but now there's a warning that could affect more than just your hearing.

Loud streets jeopardizing people's hearing, heart and mental health, report suggests

Streetcars, traffic, construction noise and more all swirl together to make Toronto one noisy city. (J.P. Moczulski/ The Canadian Press)

Toronto can be one noisy city.

And that, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa suggests in a new report, could not only be harming your hearing, but your cardiovascular system and mental health as well.

Next week, the board of health will discuss a set of measures aimed at turning down the volume in Toronto — potentially endorsing a "multi-pronged strategy" that could include reviewing the current noise bylaws.

At the busy intersection of Richmond Street West and John Street, several people brushed off the risks.

"It doesn't bother me, but I'm a big-city person," said Marguerite Pigott, adding she's sometimes bothered by construction noise.

Otherwise, "Toronto's a city with music and dogs barking and people talking and I think it's glorious."

Christopher and Jessica Masucci have been getting used to living next to the noise from crews tearing down the York-Bay off-ramp. "It can get pretty noisy," Christopher Masucci admits.

However, both agree the noise comes with the territory.

"To live here and be a Torontonian, you're going to have to deal with it," Jessica said.

Downtown councillor wants tougher rules

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who has tried to crack down on motorcycle and construction noise in the core in the past, isn't so sure that needs to be the case.

Torontonians expect a certain level of noise — part of her ward has been granted exemptions for Pride festivities, for example — but she says they should also expect a good quality of life.

"It's one of our major constituency complaints," Wong-Tam told CBC Toronto, noting that construction taking place outside of the designated hours has kept residents awake.

And with fewer hours of sleep, more stress and a weakened immune system, many find themselves falling ill.

"It is actually a major health consideration," she said.

Wong-Tam says she'd like to see the city stiffen its fine for anyone violating noise rules.

While many pay attention to construction noise, the report notes 60 per cent of all noise can be attributed to traffic.

Toronto has similar noise levels to Vancouver, Montreal

Currently, the board of health report says the average noise level in the city over an entire day is 63 dBA. That number changes, from lows of 50 dBA at some sites to 78 dBA at others. At one downtown construction site, a mobile phone app calculating dBA suggested the noise was about 82 dBA.

While most of those values are below the previous World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 70 dBA, Dr. Eileen de Villa's report notes the new guidelines suggest people's health can suffer at levels between 42 and 60 dBA — although online comparison charts suggest that range would be no louder than quiet suburbs or a conversation in a restaurant.

De Villa was not available to speak about the report with CBC Toronto on Thursday, but is expected to present it to the health board on Monday.

The report also notes that Toronto's noise levels are similar to those in Vancouver and Montreal.

Among the recommendations:

  • Toronto should develop a noise management action plan.
  • Have Municipal Licensing and Standards review its noise rules.
  • Ask the Ontario government to adopt the WHO recommendations on noise.
  • And ask the federal government to require mandatory labels for noisy garden equipment and small machinery.


John Rieti

Senior producer

John started with CBC News in 2008 as a Peter Gzowski intern in Newfoundland, and holds a master of journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University. As a reporter, John has covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. He now leads a CBC Toronto digital team that has won multiple Radio Television Digital News Association awards for overall excellence in online reporting. You can reach him at


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