Help the Government of Canada organize its website!

Complete an anonymous 5-minute questionnaire. Start now.

2012 Air Pollutant Emission Summaries and Historical Emission Trends

Various sources of air pollution, including industry, motor vehicles, residential heating, agriculture, and forest fires.

National emission summaries for key air pollutants are now available for the 2012 calendar year, together with historical national emission trends. Background information, data highlights, resources for accessing the data, and important considerations for its use are available below.


Background:

Air pollutant emission summaries and trends are published to:

  • Inform Canadians about pollutants that affect their health and the environment;
  • Identify priorities for action;
  • Develop and track progress on air quality management strategies, policies and regulations; and
  • Fulfill Canada’s domestic and international reporting obligations.

These emission summaries and trends are based on information reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) by industrial and other facilities under section 46 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), as well as emission estimates for other sources such as motor vehicles, agricultural activities and forest fires. Air emissions summaries and trends are available for criteria air contaminants as well as certain heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants.

Additional information on air pollutant emissions in Canada is available through Environment Canada's Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) website.


Data Highlights:

Overall, Canadian emissions of air pollutants have steadily declined between 1985 and 2012 for 13 pollutants, namely cadmium (Cd), carbon monoxide (CO), dioxins and furans (D/F), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), nitrogen oxides (NOx), four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)Footnote 1, sulphur oxides (SOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exceptions to these continuing downward trends are ammonia (NH3), as well as total particulate matter (TPM), particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns (PM10) and particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns (PM2.5)

Long-term air pollutant emission trends are available for years 1985-2012 or 1990-2012, as summarized below:

  • Emissions of sulphur oxides decreased by 60% between 1985 and 2012, mainly due to reductions in emissions from non-ferrous metal smelters and fossil-fuel (e.g. coal) fired power-generating utilities, as well as a reduction in emissions from the petroleum refining sector.
  • Emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased by 24% between 1985 and 2012, due to a large extent to emission decreases from on-road vehicles; however, industry as a whole (e.g. the cement and concrete sector) also reduced their emissions of this contaminant.
  • Emissions of volatile organic compounds decreased by 29% between 1985 and 2012, primarily from mobiles sources such as motor vehicles.
  • Emissions from carbon monoxide decreased by 48% between 1985 and 2012, due to reductions in emissions from mobiles sources such as motor vehicles.
  • Emissions of cadmium and mercury both decreased by 90% between 1990 and 2012, mainly due to a reduction of emissions from industrial sources, including metal smelters.
  • Emissions from lead decreased by 87% between 1990 and 2012, due to reduced emissions from many industrial sectors, most notably the metal smelting sector, and the declining use of leaded aviation fuel.
  • Emissions of dioxins and furans decreased by 89% from 1990 and 2012, due to a reduction in emissions from the pulp and paper industry, as well as from municipal incineration and mineral processing.
  • Emissions of four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)Footnote 1 decreased by 66% between 1990 and 2012, due in large part to reductions in the primary metals refining and smelting sectors, notably in the case of aluminum, as well as the iron and steel industries.
  • Emissions of hexachlorobenzene decreased by 90% between 1990 and 2012, mainly due to reductions in emissions in steelmaking and smelting, as well as a reduction in emissions from waste incineration.
  • Emissions of ammonia increased by 23% between 1990 and 2012 due to increased agricultural fertilizer use and larger livestock populations.
  • Emissions of total particulate matter, particulate matter less than or equal to 10 micron and particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns increased by 35%, 26% and 5%, respectively, from 1985 to 2012, due primarily to increases in construction projects, and to a lesser extent to the growth in vehicle traffic on paved and unpaved roads.

The percentages shown above are based on anthropogenic sources (due to human activities) and exclude naturally occurring biogenic emissions.

Recalculations of the entire emissions trends were carried out for various sectors and pollutants.  Recalculations occur when improved quantification methods are implemented, new data becomes available, gaps in coverage are addressed or errors are corrected.

The updated trends include recalculations of historical emission data as follows:

  • For years 1985-2012: total particulate matter, particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns, particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide.
  • The emissions of ammonia and mercury were also updated from 1990 to 2012.

Recalculations affected emission estimates in the following sectors:

o   Asphalt Paving

o   Mining and Rock Quarrying

o   Upstream Petroleum Industry

o   Commercial Fuel Combustion

o   Residential Fuel Combustion

o   Marine Transportation

o   Municipal Incineration

o   Dry Cleaning

o   General Solvent Use

o   Refined Petroleum Products Retail

o   Printing

o   Surface Coatings

o   Agriculture – Agriculture (Animals)

o   Agriculture – Fertilizer Application

o   Construction Operations

o   Waste - Landfills

o   Waste - Open Burning

o   Prescribed Burning

o   Mercury in Products

o   Biogenics

The emissions for lead, cadmium, dioxins/furans, and four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)Footnote 1 have not been recalculated for 1990-2011, but were updated by adding emissions for 2012.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Comprehensive air emissions information is available for the following four PAHs: Benzo[a]pyrene, Benzo[b]fluoranthene, Benzo[k]fluoranthene and Indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene. NPRI facility-reported data is available for additional PAHs. For more information, see the NPRI Substance List and Online Data Search application.

Return to first footnote 1 referrer


A Guide to Using and Interpreting NPRI Data:

There are a number of important factors to keep in mind when using and interpreting NPRI data. For more information, please review the Guide to using and interpreting NPRI data page.

Information on Compilation of the air pollutant emission summaries and trends is also available.


Resources for Accessing NPRI Data, including Air Pollutant Emission Summaries and Trends: