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Part II: Canada's Draft National Action Plan on Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants

3 Releases of Unintentionally produced POPs in Canada

3.1 Current Releases and Trends

3.1.1 National Release Inventory of PCDD/F for Point, Area and Mobile Sources

Estimates of national releases to air, water and soil from point, area and mobile sources have been developed for calendar years 1990, 1997, and 1999 using best available information. A data report, Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF, was first published by Environment Canada in 1999, and subsequently updated in 2001 with revisions to the earlier 1999 estimates.30 These estimates have provided the basis for selecting reduction strategies undertaken through the Canada-wide Standards process for dioxins and furans, an interjurisdictional program of federal, provincial and territorial governments through the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment. Information on sectoral releases is presented in Appendix A.

Release estimates for 1999 indicated that seven top-ranking sources, varying from regional to national in scope, accounted for about 82 percent of the estimated total 164 grams dioxins/furans released to air from anthropogenic sources expressed as toxic equivalence units (ITEQ). As a result of recent studies, reports with current estimates of dioxins/furans for open burning of municipal solid waste31 and for on-site residential waste combustion32 became available subsequent to the compilation of the Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF. Releases were estimated at 13 to 23 grams ITEQ and 20 to 40 grams ITEQ to the atmosphere per year for open burning of waste and on-site residential waste combustion respectively.

The percent contributions of identified source sectors releasing dioxins and furans are summarized in the following figure. The data presented takes into account the 1999 release estimates and updated understanding of releases from open burning of waste and on-site residential waste combustion as documented above.

Figure 3-1: Estimated Percent Contribution of Sector Dioxins and Furans Releases to the Atmosphere (1999)
Figure 3-1 presents the estimated percent contribution of identified source sectors to the total release of dioxins and furans to the atmosphere in 1999.

Estimates of releases are expected to be dynamic as other source characterization studies provide new or more current information.

The actions taken during the past decade demonstrate measurable results as shown by the data tabulated in Table 3-1. On a national basis, annual releases in 1999 of dioxins/furans to air and water were reduced by approximately 62 and 99 percent respectively from 1990 levels. Releases to soil have remained unchanged at about 19 grams ITEQ.

Table 3-1: Dioxins/Furans Release Trends from 1990 to 1999
MediaRelease (grams ITEQ)Percent Change 1990-1999
Air42727416462 % decrease
Water4543399 % decrease
Soil191919no change

Source: Environment Canada, Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF, 2001

3.1.2 National Pollutant Release Inventory

In 1992, Environment Canada expanded its scope of inventory activities when the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) was introduced. The NPRI is a publicly-accessible database of information on annual releases to air, water and land, and off-site transfers for disposal or recycling. The NPRI collects data on substances of concern for the primary purpose of providing Canadians with access to pollutant release information for facilities located in their communities. This program obligates publicly-owned and private sector facilities meeting specified reporting criteria and release threshold quantities to report releases and transfers33 of identified substances.

In 2000, following stakeholder consultations, a number of new substances were added to the NPRI list including dioxins, furans and HCB. The addition of PCBs is at the proposal stage. Facilities engaged in identified activities that have the potential to incidentally manufacture dioxins, furans and HCB are required to submit a report to the NPRI.

The NPRI program is considering changes to reporting requirements for dioxins/furans and HCB, to assist Environment Canada in meeting Canada's domestic and international obligations for reporting of these substances; and to increase harmonization efforts with provinces and the United States Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The NPRI program is considering the establishment of a Sub-Group of its current stakeholder Working Group to examine possible changes to the reporting requirements for dioxins/furans and HCB, as well as the addition of reporting of co-planar PCBs. The Sub-Group would be tasked with reviewing:

  • the merits of including co-planar PCBs with dioxins, furans and HCB;
  • linkages between emissions of HCB and emissions of dioxins and furans;
  • facilities captured by NPRI reporting requirements;
  • the way in which these substances are handled in the U.S. TRI;
  • a more thorough assessment of emissions, taking into account various reporting thresholds for HCB; and
  • reporting options such as the advantages and limitations of reporting in ITEQ or in total grams.
Dioxins and Furans

The data in Table 3-2 show the releases and transfers of dioxins/furans from point sources reporting to the NPRI in the calendar years from 2000 to 2002. The third column, "On-Site Releases" includes releases to all media. However, for dioxins/furans, air emissions account for the majority of the releases. As awareness of the NPRI reporting requirements increases, more facilities are reporting, increasing from 299 in 2000 to 342 in 2002, while on-site releases have remained relatively unchanged in 2002 from 2000. Data accuracy of some facilities is known to be improving as they implement source testing thus replacing less reliable earlier data developed through emission factors or engineering estimates.

The three year record of NPRI information does not encompass the time period when substantial reductions would have occurred from measures implemented prior to the year 2000. For example, releases of dioxins/furans in pulp mill wastewater significantly decreased prior to the year 2000, as shown previously in Table 3-1.

Table 3-2: Releases of Dioxins and Furans from NPRI-Reported Facilities 2000-2002 (grams ITEQ)
YearNumber of FacilitiesOn-Site Releases
DisposalOff-Site Releases
Percent Change
(2000 - 2002)

Source: National Pollutant Release Inventory, Environment Canada, retrieved Aug. 30, 2004


Table 3-3 shows the annual releases and transfers of HCB beginning in year 2000 through to 2002. Releases to all media increased over this period. In 2000, a new magnesium manufacturing facility in the province of Quebec came on-line and contributed to the increase observed in HCB releases and transfers. In 2003, this facility was indefinitely idled, due to poor market conditions.

Table 3-3: Releases of HCB from NPRI-Reported Facilities 2000-2002 (grams)
YearNumber of FacilitiesOn-Site Releases
DisposalOff-Site Releases
Percent Change14%20%~143%3,798%93%

Source: National Pollutant Release Inventory, Environment Canada, retrieved Aug. 30, 2004

3.1.3 Regional Inventories of Pollutant Releases

Data systems on pollutant releases are also used as planning tools in support of several major sustainable ecosystem programs across Canada that specially focus on toxic substances of regional importance.

For example, the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy (GLBTS), signed in April 1997, is a collaborative process that provides a forum for stakeholders in Canada and the United States to exchange information on a set of quantitative challenges for certain persistent, anthropogenic toxic substances that threaten the Great Lakes Basin. The Great Lakes Action Plan 2000-2005 incorporates the actions of the Government of Canada, joint Canada-Ontario activities, and actions undertaken in coordination and cooperation with United States federal and state agencies. The Great Lakes Regional Air Toxics Inventory has been developed under the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy: Canada-United States Strategy for the Virtual Elimination of Substances in the Great Lakes. As the largest multi-jurisdictional effort of its kind in North America, this program has developed an air toxics inventory of more than 80 toxic substances for point, area and mobile sources including the four UPOPs.

Figure 3-2 shows the trends in atmospheric releases of the four UPOPs in the Great Lakes Region from 1996 to 2001. The 2001 inventory (for eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario) was published in an integrated form that included point, area, and mobile sources. The 1996 data shown in this figure include point and area sources since estimates for mobile sources were later published in 2000. It is noted that mobile sources are a comparatively small sector in both inventories. Although emissions decreased for three of the UPOPs, a substantial increase is seen in HCB emissions, which is attributed mainly to the inclusion of the aluminium die casting sector in 2001, a source sector not included in 1996 when cement kilns dominated HCB releases to the atmosphere in this region.

Figure 3-2: Air Emission Trends of UPOPs in the Great Lakes Region
Figure 3-2: Air Emission Trends of UPOPs in the Great Lakes Region

3.1.4 Air Emissions Inventory

Environment Canada also prepares comprehensive inventories of dioxins/furans and HCB releases to air, for reporting under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) 1998 Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Protocol) pursuant to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, on an annual basis. The inventories include emissions to air from point, mobile and area sources, and build upon point source release data reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (see section 3.1.2). The dioxins/furans and HCB inventories will also serve to meet requirements of the Stockholm Convention.

3.2 Projected Releases

Recent initiatives under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment on five priority sectors are predicted to reduce overall national emissions of dioxins/furans as much as 60 percent34 by 2010 as compared to 1999 levels. This represents further reductions in air emissions beyond the reductions obtained since 1990 when dioxins/furans releases to the atmosphere were estimated at 427 grams ITEQ.

Future releases of dioxins/furans are predicted to continue in a downward trend as Canada benefits from recent actions and from control measures yet to be undertaken, recognizing that release estimates will continue evolving due to new test data or improved emission factors.

33 If a facility meets the NPRI reporting thresholds for the list of substances specified in the Canada Gazette, the company must report:

  • information about the company, its location and number of employees,
  • information about each substance that meets the reporting requirements, including the substance name and Chemical Abstracts Service registry, the nature of the activities (such as whether the substance is manufactured, processed or otherwise used at the facility),
  • the quantity of the substance that is released at the facility to water, air or land, underground injection and/or
  • the quantity of the substance that is transferred off site to another location for final disposal or treatment prior to disposal and the nature of the treatment,
  • the quantity of each reported substance that is transferred off-site for recycling and for energy recovery, and the address of the receiving facility,
  • the reasons for year-to-year changes in releases, transfers and recycling,
  • information on anticipated changes (mandatory for the three years following the reporting year) in releases, transfers and recycling, and
  • information on the types of pollution prevention activities undertaken at the facility.

34 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Status of Activities Related to Dioxins and Furans Canada-Wide Standards, Dioxins and Furans Canada-Wide Standards Development Committee, February 2003 (PDF Format, 140KB)

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