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Minimizing threats to air quality

Goal 2: Air pollution – Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems.

Progress towards Goal 2: Ambient air quality (ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter)

The national average ambient level of fine particulate matter has been steady since 2000. In 2010, the value was 8.7 micrograms per cubic metre.

The national average ambient ground-level ozone trend has been rising from 1990 to 2010. In 2010, the national average ambient concentration of ground-level ozone was 38.2 parts per billion.

Air quality is important to human health, the natural environment and the economy, and so the government has been taking action on key sources and major emitting sectors, while recognizing that many sources lie beyond Canada's border.

To provide a basis for measuring the ambient air quality, air pollutants are tracked, such as the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air. The national average level of fine particulate matter has not changed significantly over the period between 2000 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration in Canada of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air was 8.7 micrograms per cubic metre, 24% higher than in 2009. The likely factors contributing to this increase include forest fires in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Quebec, and a warm and dry year in many parts of Canada compared to 2009. Figure 2.3 reveals no statistically significant increasing or decreasing trend in Canada's average concentrations of PM2.5 since 2000.

Figure 2.3: Fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2010

Fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2010

Long description

The line chart shows the average concentration of fine particulate matter in the air in Canada from 2000 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration of fine particulate matter in the air was 8.7 micrograms per cubic metre, 24% higher than in 2009. No significant increasing or decreasing trend was detected in national ambient fine particulate matter concentrations between 2000 and 2010.

The national average ground-level ozone trend has been rising from 1990 to 2010, increasing 10% over the period. In 2010, the average concentration of ground-level ozone (O3) in outdoor ambient air was 38.2 parts per billion (ppb) in Canada. The increase is mainly due to 2010 being a warmer and dryer year than 2009. Figure 2.4 illustrates the rising trend in ground-level ozone concentration between 1990 and 2010.

Figure 2.4: Ground-level ozone concentrations, Canada, 1990 to 2010

Ground-level ozone concentrations, Canada, 1990 to 2010

Long description

The line chart shows the average concentration of ground-level ozone in the air in Canada from 1990 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration of ground-level ozone in the outdoor ambient air was 38.2 parts per billion in Canada, about 3% higher than the previous year. A rising trend was detected from 1990 to 2010, representing a concentration increase of 10% over that period.

For the most up-to-date information on these indicators, please visit CESI (PM2.5, O3)

Progress towards Goal 2: Ambient air concentration of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds

Overall, the national average ambient air concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds are on a downward trend from 1996 to 2010.

Overall, the national average ambient air concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds are on a downward trend from 1996 to 2010.

In 2010, the national average concentration of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the air was 1.8 ppb in Canada, 17% lower than in 2009. From 1996 to 2010 the trend declined, with concentration decreasing by 62%, due mainly to efforts to curb acid rain and ambient particulate matter, and federal regulations on sulphur content in fuels. Figure 2.5 illustrates the decline in SO2 concentration since 1996.

Figure 2.5: Sulphur dioxide concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Sulphur dioxide concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Long description

The line chart shows the average concentration of sulphur dioxide in the air in Canada from 1996 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration of sulphur dioxide in the air was 1.8 parts per billion, 17% lower than in 2009. A declining trend was detected from 1996 to 2010, representing a concentration decrease of 62% over that period.

The national average concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air for 2010 was 10.8 ppb, 6% lower than in 2009. The trend declined from 1996 to 2010, showing a decrease of 38% over that period. The decrease in NO2 concentration is consistent with the reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from cars and trucks as a result of the introduction of more stringent emissions standards from the government over the past years. Figure 2.6 shows this declining trend from 1996 to 2010.

Figure 2.6: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Nitrogen dioxide concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Long description

The line chart shows the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air in Canada from 1996 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air was 10.8 parts per billion, 6% lower than in 2009. A declining trend was detected from 1996 to 2010, representing a concentration decrease of 38% over that period.

The national average concentration of the measured volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air for 2010 was 57.5 parts per billion carbon, or 7% lower than in 2009. The trend declined from 1996 to 2010, representing a concentration decrease of 57% over that period. The decrease in VOC concentration is also consistent with the reduction in VOC emissions from cars and trucks resulting from the introduction of more stringent emissions standards. The decline in VOC emissions from 1996 to 2010 is illustrated in Figure 2.7.

Figure 2.7: Volatile organic compounds concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Volatile Organic Compounds concentrations, Canada, 1996 to 2010

Long description

The line chart shows the average concentration of measured volatile organic compounds in the air in Canada from 1996 to 2010. In 2010, the average concentration of volatile organic compounds in the air was 57.5 parts per billion carbon or 7% lower than in 2009. A declining trend was detected from 1996 to 2010, representing a concentration decrease of 57% over that period.

For the most up-to-date information on these indicators, please visit CESI (SO2, NO2, VOCs)


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