Air Quality

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Air quality can deteriorate due to the presence in the air of one or more air pollutants such as solid and liquid particles called fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ground-level ozone (O3), sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ground-level ozone and PM2.5 are the main components of summertime smog. The levels of these pollutants in outdoor air are influenced by many factors, including the proximity to local emissions sources, weather conditions, chemical reactions in the air and the transport of air pollutants over long distances by winds.

The seven Air Quality indicators provide information on the outdoor concentrations of five air pollutants: PM2.5, O3, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and VOCs. These air pollutants were selected because they are among the pollutants that most Canadians are exposed to and can have adverse health and environmental effects. They also contribute to the formation of smog and acid deposition.

These indicators are calculated using data obtained from the National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) program, a cooperative partnership involving the federal, provincial, territorial and two regional governments, and from the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN) operated by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The PM2.5 and one of the O3 indicators are aligned and compared with the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for PM2.5 and O3.Footnote [1] The CAAQS were established as objectives under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) in May 2013 by the federal government. They are key elements of the new Air Quality Management System (AQMS),Footnote [2] which the Ministers of the Environment, with the exception of Quebec, agreed to begin implementing in October 2012. The AQMS provides a comprehensive, cross-Canada framework for collaborative action by jurisdictions to further protect human health and the environment through continuous improvement of air quality.

Summary

Between 2000 and 2013, the two national indicators of PM2.5, annual average and peak (98th percentile) 24-hour, were below the 2015 CAAQS for PM2.5. In 2013 the PM2.5 annual average and peak (98th percentile) indicators were 27% and 29% below their respective 2015 CAAQS. Between 1999 and 2007 the national O3 peak (4th-highest) 8-hour indicator was very close to the CAAQS and from 2008 to 2013 it was below the standard. In 2013, the O3 peak indicator was 11% below the 2015 CAAQS.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone (O3) air quality indicators relative to Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards set for 2015, Canada, 1999 to 2013

Line chart

Long description

The indexed line chart shows ambient concentrations relative to the 2015 Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards, in percentage, for fine particulate matter for the years 2000 to 2013 and for ground-level ozone for the years 1999 to 2013.

Data for this chart
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone (O3) air quality indicators relative to Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards set for 2015, Canada, 1999 to 2013
YearGround-level ozone peak (4th-highest) 8-hour
(relative to the 2015 CAAQS in percent)
Fine particulate matter annual average
(relative to the 2015 CAAQS in percent)
Fine particulate matter peak (98th percentile) 24-hour
(relative to the 2015 CAAQS in percent)
19997.9no datano data
2000-6.2-34.0-28.3
20017.5-35.3-15.3
20028.1-29.3-5.1
20037.9-28.0-7.1
2004-5.1-35.7-14.0
20050.4-29.4-7.5
2006-2.3-37.5-27.7
20072.4-38.5-21.1
2008-4.8-37.7-27.5
2009-9.3-39.2-35.6
2010-5.1-29.1-7.6
2011-10.0-31.9-22.2
2012-3.9-36.5-32.5
2013-10.5-26.6-28.6

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.59 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The horizontal dashed line at 0% represents the 2015 CAAQS for each indicator and is shown for indicative purposes only. New monitoring equipment were progressively introduced across Canada to replace older monitoring equipment from the mid-2000's to 2013. These new instruments measure a portion (semi-volatile) of the PM2.5 mass not captured by the older instruments. Because of the differences between the new and the old monitoring equipment, concentrations measured with the new monitors may not be directly comparable with measurements from years in which older instruments were used.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2015) National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) program and the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN).

Details on air quality

Ambient levels of fine particulate matter

Ambient levels of ozone

Ambient levels of sulphur dioxide

Ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide

Ambient levels of volatile organic compounds

Theme I: Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
These indicators are used to measure progress toward Goal 2: Air Pollution – Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013–2016.

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