2011 Air Pollutant Emission Summaries and Historical Emission Trends
National, provincial and territorial emission summaries for key air pollutants are now available for the 2011 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.
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.
- The air pollutant emission summaries and trends data includes emissions of the key air pollutants contributing to smog, acid rain and poor air quality, and/or that affect human health. In general, emissions from most industrial and commercial sectors decreased in 2011 compared to 2010. This decrease reflects those seen in the longer term, where emissions of smog precursors, certain heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants declined between 1990 and 2011, with the exception of emissions from natural and open sources that were seen to increase, for example:
- forest fires
- vehicular traffic on paved and unpaved roads
- agricultural activities, including livestock.
Year to Year Changes in Air Pollutant Emissions (2010 - 2011)
Canadian emissions (excluding natural sources) for several pollutants decreased in 2011 compared to 2010:
- Cadmium, mercury and lead emissions, decreased by 50%, 23% and 21%, respectively. This was due to a reduction in activity in the smelting and upstream oil and gas industries, as well as changes in measurement methods, notably in the case of lead.
- Dioxin and furan emissions decreased by 21% due to a reduction in emissions from municipal waste incineration, electric power generation, and industrial activity such as metal fabrication.
- Sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions decreased by 7% mainly due to reductions of emissions from metal smelters and fossil-fueled electricity generation, but also due to reductions in the industrial sector as a whole.
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions decreased by 6% primarily due a reduction of emissions from mobile sources and from electric power generation from fossil fuels.
- Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions decreased by 4% due to reductions in emissions from the industrial sector – notably the oil sands extracting and upgrading industries. Mobile sources also accounted for a sizable reduction in VOC emissions.
- Carbon monoxide emissions decreased by 3% due primarily to a reduction in mobile source emissions.
The emissions of the four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)* remained the same in 2011 compared to 2010.
Other Canadian emissions (excluding natural sources) for the following pollutants increased in 2011 compared to 2010:
- Ammonia emissions increased by 11% due to emissions from open sources such as agriculture.
- Total Particulate Matter increased by only 1% due to a large extent to an increase in the dust generated from paved and unpaved roads.
Long Term Air Pollutant Emission Trends (1990-2011)
Canadian emissions (excluding natural sources) for a number of important pollutants decreased between 1990 and 2011:
- Overall Canadian emissions of smog precursors, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants declined between 1990 and 2011, with the exception of emissions from natural and open sources such as forest fires, agriculture and construction.
- These overall decreases occurred despite emission increases from certain sectors, such as oil sands operations due to increased production.
- Emissions of cadmium decreased by 91% between 1990 and 2011, mainly due to a reduction of emissions from industrial sources, including metal smelters.
- Emissions of mercury decreased by 89% between 1990 and 2011, mainly due to a reduction of emissions from industrial sources, including metal smelters.
- Emissions of hexachlorobenzene decreased by 88% between 1990 and 2011, mainly due to reductions in emissions in steelmaking and smelting, as well as a reduction in emissions in waste incineration.
- Emissions of dioxins and furans decreased by 88% from 1990 and 2011 due to a reduction in emissions from the pulp and paper industry through the elimination of elemental chlorine bleaching, as well as a reduction in emissions from the municipal incineration and cement manufacturing.
- Emissions from lead decreased by 85% due to regulations limiting the lead content of gasoline, in addition to a reduction of emissions from the metal smelting sector.
- Emissions of the four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons decreased by 66% due in large part to reductions in the primary metals refining and smelting sectors, notably in the case of aluminum.
- Emissions from carbon monoxide decreased by 45% due to reductions in emissions from mobile sources such as motor vehicles.
- Emissions of sulphur oxides decreased by 60% between 1990 and 2011, 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 volatile organic compounds decreased by 28% between 1990 and 2011 due to reductions from transportation and other mobile sources, as well as small reductions from various industrial sectors.
- Emissions of Nitrogen oxide decreased by 21% between 1990 and 2011, due to a large extent to emission decreases from on-road vehicles; however, the industry as a whole (e.g. the cement and concrete sector) reduced their emissions of this contaminant..
Canadian emissions (excluding natural sources) for several pollutants increased between 1990 and 2011:
- Emissions of Total Particulate Matter increased by 35% due to a large extent to increases in vehicular traffic on paved and unpaved roads.
- Emissions of ammonia increased by 22% due to livestock.
*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.
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.
- Comparative Summary of Air Pollutant Emissions – Contribution of Emissions Reported by Facilities to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI)
Resources for Accessing NPRI Data, including Air Pollutant Emission Summaries and Trends:
- NPRI Online Data Search:
- Downloadable NPRI Datasets
- Date Modified: