Air Quality Indicators

Exposure to air pollution has been linked to a number of adverse effects on health. 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). O3 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, and the transport of air pollutants over long distances by winds.

The Air Quality Indicators provide information on the outdoor concentrations of PM2.5, O3, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and VOCs. These indicators are calculated using data from the National Air Pollution Surveillance program (NAPS), a cooperative arrangement among the federal government and provincial, territorial and municipal partners; and from the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN) operated by Environment Canada.

In October 2012, the federal, provincial and territorial Environment Ministers agreed to take further action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment with measures to improve air quality in Canada, through the comprehensive New Air Quality Management System (AQMS). The system was developed in collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial governments, and stakeholders representing industry as well as health and environmental organizations.

The AQMS includes new Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for PM2.5 and O3, which were established as objectives under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) on May 25, 2013. The CAAQS are health-based numerical values of outdoor air concentrations of pollutants, intended to drive air quality improvement across Canada. The CAAQS are more ambitious and comprehensive than the previous Canada-wide Standards for Particulate Matter and Ozone. The CAAQS provide lower short-term limits for PM2.5 and O3 and introduce a new limit for long-term exposure (annual) for PM2.5. The approach of the Air Quality Indicators for PM2.5 and O3 has been updated to align with the CAAQS.Footnote [1]

Details on air quality

Ambient levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5)

Ambient levels of ozone (O3)

Ambient levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Ambient levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

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.


Footnote 1

Consult the Data Sources and Methods for details.

Return to footnote 1 referrer