3. Information gathering, objectives, guidelines and codes of practice (Part 3)

Part 3 of Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) requires the Minister of the Environment to issue environmental quality objectives and guidelines, release guidelines and codes of practice. Under this Part, the Minister of Health is also required to issue objectives, guidelines and codes of practice with respect to the elements of the environment that may affect the life and health of the people of Canada. Part 3 also provides for research, information gathering, the creation of inventories and reporting.

In Canada, air and water quality monitoring is carried out through partnerships among provincial, territorial and federal governments; municipalities; universities; air and water associations; environmental groups and volunteers.

The National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) network is a joint federal, provincial, territorial and municipal network established in 1969. It is primarily an urban network, with nearly 300 air monitoring stations located in 177 communities. In total, almost 840 instruments, including continuous analyzers, particulate matter monitors and samplers, are used to provide air quality measurements for criteria air contaminants and toxic substances. These include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans, which are produced through combustion like wood burning, as well as heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead and mercury. In all, more than 340 types of chemicals are analyzed in samples collected at typical urban NAPS sites, including more than 167 volatile organic compounds that contribute to smog formation. Over the years, the network has produced one of the longest and most geographically diverse air quality databases with the largest number of pollutants in Canada.

NAPS data are used to report on progress toward achieving the Canada-wide Standards for Particulate Matter (PM) and Ozone. Ozone and fine particulate matter data are used by the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program for its air indicator, while the Canada-U.S. Agreement on Air Quality uses data for discussions relating to transboundary pollution. Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide measurements through the NAPS network are also used by Alberta, Ontario and Quebec to report on their Air Quality Index, and by Environment Canada and the remaining provinces to report on the Air Quality Health Index. A large number of requests for NAPS data are received each year by Environment Canada from other governments, academic researchers and Canadians.

In 2008-2009, Environment Canada continued to add new sites and provide analytical support to the network to improve the capacity to provide information on urban air quality and the human health impacts of local emissions. In 2009, NAPS celebrated its 40th anniversary. An informational brochure providing trends data was produced to distribute to stakeholders and the public.

Since 1970, lead and sulphur dioxide concentrations, and particulate matter levels have decreased by 90%, 96% and more than 50%, respectively, in ambient air. In addition, urban benzene concentrations decreased by 76% between 1991 and 2008, while rural benzene concentrations decreased by 50% between 1994 and 2008. These changes to ambient pollutant levels resulted from the implementation of environmental regulations and fuel standards that addressed concerns about the impact of these substances on the health of Canadians. While concentrations of major pollutants have decreased in the last 40 years, ongoing measurements and research on health effects have made it apparent that pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (smaller than 2.5 microns) and ozone, are still of concern. New chemicals are also identified for regulation based on health or environmental risks. As these new priorities are identified, NAPS implements methods and procedures to collect data on these chemicals. This process results in a continuously evolving measurement program to track relevant critical air contaminants. Environment Canada is developing and implementing analytical methods to address the atmospheric science knowledge gaps linked to the changing characteristics of the volatile and semi-volatile chemicals emitted in ambient air from new vehicle engines that are fitted with novel emission control technologies and use a wide array of conventional and renewable fuels.

The Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network is a regional/remote monitoring network that has been measuring air quality since 1978. There are currently 30 measurement sites in Canada, located in rural areas to provide a representative sampling of regional air quality. One site in the United States and another in Canada ensure the comparability of measurement methods between the two countries. The network measures a wide range of air pollutants, including several toxic substances under CEPA 1999 (e.g. particulate sulphate, gaseous ammonia, nitrate, gaseous sulphur dioxide and nitric acid).

In 2008-2009, more than 25 000 samples of all types were analyzed in support of Canadian environmental research initiatives. New sites and additional analytical capacity were added to increase the capacity of the network to define the impacts of domestic and international air pollutant emissions on air quality, human health and the environment.

Mandated by Annex 15 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network is a binational venture involving Canadian and U.S. agencies that was established in 1990 to monitor trends of non-point priority toxic pollutant sources in the Great Lakes Basin.

The network maintains a monitoring station on the shoreline of each of the five Great Lakes along with several additional satellite stations. The monitoring stations provide long-term data on regionally representative concentrations of toxic substances in gas, particle and precipitation samples. Environment Canada operates stations on Lake Huron at Burnt Island and on Lake Ontario at Point Petre. Substances monitored included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organochlorine pesticides, including those banned and in-use, congener-specific polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trace elements. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were added in early 2008 after the network was realigned with Canada's Chemicals Management Plan.

In 2008-2009, emphasis was placed on continued measurements of priority toxic substances, data analysis, and development and refinement of methods. An international peer review of the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network program took place in November 2008 at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry conference, and the related reports were published in 2008. A final report including recommendations for the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network from the peer review panel was received.

Environment Canada continued atmospheric measurements of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other priority chemicals in the Arctic through the Northern Contaminants Air Monitoring: Organic Pollutant Measurements project, under the Northern Contaminants Program. Led by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Northern Contaminants Program is Canada's National Implementation Plan for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and contributes to Canada's obligations under the United Nations Environment Programme's StockholmConvention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

In 2008-2009, data on long-term trends and a circumpolar assessment of spatial distribution of POPs contributed to the first Global Monitoring Report of the Stockholm Convention. The data also formed the basis of a ministerial report to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme presented in January 2009. Air concentration data on new priority chemicals, including perfluorinated compounds and current-use pesticides, measured at Alert since 2006, started to become available in 2008-2009 with the support of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan. This is the first attempt to measure these chemicals at a High Arctic station, with the goal of continuing the measurements in order to assess temporal trends. A newly developed flow-through passive air sampler has been tested at Alert since September 2007, and testing is ongoing. It was designed specifically for use in remote regions without electricity, and it can sample large volumes of air relatively quickly. This sampler has the potential to meet the increased demand for more spatially resolved long-term trend data on atmospheric POPs in the Arctic; these are needed to assess the effectiveness of the Stockholm Convention.

In 2008-2009, the project to provide atmospheric measurements of mercury continued to deliver data about atmospheric mercury levels and processes in the Canadian Arctic. The work conducted through this project provides crucial information about key atmospheric transport, transformation and deposition processes of this priority pollutant in the Arctic.

This project is one of 44 Canadian-funded projects and one of 5 projects led by Environment Canada's scientists under the International Polar Year, which is a large, global, interdisciplinary scientific program focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic. The project measures POPs and mercury air concentrations simultaneously in potential source regions along the Pacific coasts and in the Canadian, American and Russian Arctics. This project is an extension of the Northern Contaminants Program's networks for measurement of atmospheric POPs and mercury. It is a collaboration of a team of scientists from six countries, namely Canada, Russia, the United States, China, Vietnam and Japan.

In Canada, POPs and mercury are measured at stations in Alert, Nunavut, and Little Fox Lake, Yukon. Mercury in air is also measured at Whistler, British Columbia, where measurements took place between summer 2007 and spring 2008 and will continue until spring 2010. Early results show air carrying PCBs from different source regions on different days to the Little Fox Lake measurement site. Researchers are detecting, for the first time, a decrease in annual atmospheric mercury concentrations at the Alert site. This project was also featured in a youth-generated exhibit, On Thin Ice - Youth Respond to International Polar Year, at the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, from 2008 to 2009.

The Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling Study is a global network for monitoring chemicals in the environment using simple sampling devices that require no electricity. The network builds on a successful two-year pilot study that was initiated in December 2004 at more than 50 sites located on all seven continents. It is a collaborative effort managed by Environment Canada scientists working with a team of international researchers. The results of the study contribute to Canada's obligations pursuant to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants under the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

In 2008-2009, data from the network contributed to the first global monitoring report of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which was to be presented at the Conference of the Parties in Geneva in May 2009. The Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling Study measurements were the only available data for air for some regions and provided invaluable baseline information that will be used to assess effectiveness of control measures. Quarterly sampling at 55 global sites continued in 2008-2009, the fourth sampling year for this network. Progress was also made on screening efforts to identify priority pollutants associated with the Chemicals Management Plan in archived samples.

Environment Canada and Health Canada scientists published hundreds of articles, reports and papers during this reporting period. The following examples illustrate the types and range of research undertaken in 2008-2009. Air quality research in support of the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda

Air quality research supported by the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda provides coordinated, timely, credible and relevant information to Canadians and decision-makers about the health risks and environmental impacts of current and future levels of air pollutants through research, monitoring, modeling and scientific assessment.

The program primarily focuses on the pollutants responsible for smog, acid deposition and mercury pollution (e.g. sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, ozone and mercury).

Information derived from this program also enables Canada to track the effectiveness of measures to improve air quality, such as those implemented under CEPA 1999; the Canada-wide Standards for particulate matter, ozone and mercury; the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement; and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Activities under the program in 2008-2009 included Air quality research in support of the Chemicals Management Plan

Research studies that were undertaken in support of the Chemicals Management Plan in 2008-2009 included Pesticides

Research studies on pesticides in 2008-2009 included Metals

Research studies on metals in 2008-2009 included Municipal wastewater effluents

Research studies related to municipal wastewater effluents that were undertaken in 2008-2009 included Endocrine-disrupting substances

Research conducted on potential endocrine-disrupting substances in 2008-2009 included Chemicals Management Plan

Research studies undertaken in support of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan in 2008-2009 included Substance-specific research

Substance-specific research in 2008-2009 included Methodology

Research on analytical methods in 2008-2009 included

The following human health studies have contributed or will contribute to risk assessments of chemical substances. Exposure and biomonitoring

Research on exposure and biomonitoring in 2008-2009 included Hazard identification

Research on hazard identification in 2008-2009 included Mechanistic studies

To identify new biomarkers of exposure and health effects, and explain the molecular mechanisms of toxicity, scientists use genomics and proteomics methodologies to support regulatory activities. This research work has led to discoveries of relevant biomarkers of exposure, susceptibility and health outcomes of exposure to a toxicant or toxicants, including endocrine disruptors. For example, studies were conducted in 2008-2009 to Population studies

Human population studies in 2008-2009 included Air quality health Impacts

Air quality human health studies in 2008-2009 included

Under CEPA 1999, both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health shall issue environmental quality objectives, environmental quality guidelines, release guidelines, and codes of practice.

Environmental quality guidelines specify recommendations in quantitative or qualitative terms to support and maintain particular uses of the environment, such as protection of aquatic life, and land uses, including agricultural, industrial, commercial and residential/park land.

Table 1 lists the environmental quality guidelines that were published or were being developed through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in 2008-2009. The protocol to develop water quality guidelines was extensively revised and updated. In September 2008, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment revised its publication policy and made electronic versions available without cost from the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines website.

Table 1: Canadian environmental quality guidelines from April 2008 to March 2009
Guideline Published In Progress
  • 1,4-Dioxane (industrial solvent)
  • Chlorpyrifos (organophosphorus insecticide)
  • Organic waste and feed deposits on bottom sediments from aquaculture operations
  • Alcohol ethoxylates* (covering 32 substances)
  • Cadmium
  • Carbaryl*
  • Chlorinated paraffins
  • Cobalt
  • Cyanide/cyanates
  • Endosulfan*
  • Glyphosate*
  • Nitrate
  • Pentachlorophenol
  • Uranium
  • Zinc
  • PAHs (16 substances)
  • N-Hexane
  • Nickel
  • Zinc

* In partnership with industry

On April 19, 2008, the Minister of Health published a draft human health science assessment for inhaled manganese and a proposed health-based reference concentration for manganese in air. This reference concentration represents the concentration to which the general population, including sensitive subgroups, can be exposed for a lifetime without appreciable harm.

Drinking water quality guidelines are established by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water; they are published by the Minister of Health under section 55 of the act. They establish maximum acceptable concentrations of contaminants in drinking water. When a formal guideline is deemed not necessary by the committee, guidance documents may be published instead to provide advice and guidance on issues related to drinking water quality.

Table 2 lists the technical and guidance documents that were published or in progress in 2008-2009.

Table 2: Guidelines and guidance documents for Canadian drinking water quality from April 2008 to March 2009
Guidelines/guidance documents Published In Progress
Guideline technical documents
  • Chlorite
  • Chlorate
  • Haloacetic acids
  • 1,2-dichloroethane
  • 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (MCPA)
  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Chlorine
  • Chromium
  • Dichloromethane
  • Enteric viruses
  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate/nitrite
  • N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  • Protozoa
  • Radiological characteristics
  • Selenium
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Vinyl chloride
Guidance documents
  • Potassium from water softeners
  • Chloral hydrate in drinking water
  • Issuing and rescinding boil water advisories
  • Issuing and rescinding drinking water avoidance advisories in emergency situations
  • Controlling corrosion in drinking water distribution systems
  • Heterotrophic plate counts

State of the environment reports and environmental indicators provide Canadians with information and knowledge about current environmental issues, and establish reliable scientific trend data that support informed policy and decision-making.

Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) for air quality, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions were released on a new website in March 2009. The air quality indicators track ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, two key components of smog that are among the most widespread air pollutants. CESI supports hundreds of monitoring stations to produce the indicators, in particular supporting more than 450 water quality sites. The water quality indicator measures the extent and severity of water pollution by tracking a wide range of substances in water across Canada. The greenhouse gas indicator tracks Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Findings provide important context for the Government's actions on clean air, clean water and climate change.

Key national results from 2008 include

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators website was redesigned in 2008-2009 to make it more relevant and accessible to Canadians by

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) is Canada's legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. The NPRI includes information reported by industrial facilities, and comprehensive emission summaries and trends for key air pollutants in Canada. The inventory is an important source of information for identifying, assessing and managing risks to the environment and human health. Public access to the NPRI motivates industry to prevent and reduce pollutant releases, and improves public understanding about pollution and environmental performance in Canada.

The following publications were released in 2008-2009:

This reporting program lays the foundation for the development of a single domestic mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system to meet the greenhouse gas reporting needs for all jurisdictions and to minimize the reporting burden for both industry and government. The program's main objectives are to provide Canadians with timely information on these emissions, to enhance the level of detail in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, to support the development of greenhouse gas regulations for large industrial emitters, and to meet provincial and territorial requirements for information on these emissions. The data are collected under three acts: by Environment Canada under CEPA 1999, by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act, and by Alberta Environment under the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act.

In 2008-2009, the Overview of the Reported 2007 Greenhouse Gas Emissions was released on December 22, 2008. Key data tables and a dynamic search tool to query the reported data were also made available.

Page details

Date modified: