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.
220.127.116.11 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
- The scientific integrity and scope of the long-term environmental target for acid deposition mitigation in Canada (i.e. zero exceedances of critical loads) were improved. New information from western Canada and updated information for parts of eastern Canada were integrated into critical load maps for acid deposition.
- The adequacy of current targets to promote recovery of aquatic ecosystems from acid deposition was assessed by monitoring chemical and biological responses of lakes to reductions in acidifying emissions.
- Understanding of exposure of human populations to criteria air pollutants in southwestern Ontario was increased as a result of the completion of sophisticated analyses of air quality data.
- Understanding of the factors governing the transport of ground-level ozone and the sources and composition of particulate matter in ambient air was improved as a result of the collection of new measurements.
- Understanding of exposure of human populations to pollutants from specific sources was improved as a result of new measurements of criteria air pollutants in urban areas.
- Understanding of the scale and scope of mercury pollution in Canada was improved as a result of the initiation of new field studies.
- New features were added to an air quality model (AURAMS) to improve its capacity to accurately predict future air quality in response to changes in air pollutant emissions and climate.
- Understanding of the source-receptor relationships between air pollutant emissions and ambient concentrations of fine particulate matter was improved as a result of source apportionment studies conducted for five Canadian cities and two rural areas: receptor modeling and supporting analysis were applied to measurement data collected from the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network's fine particulate matter speciation program.
18.104.22.168 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
- Investigations were initiated on the levels of perfluorinated chemicals, PBDEs and other emerging chemicals in air and related media to help advance the sampling and analytical techniques for these compounds. Work continued on the first international study investigating different sampling techniques for measuring perfluorinated chemicals. Air samples were collected at a background field site in Germany continuously over a one-year period (April 2007 to April 2008) using both active high-volume samplers (continuous, two-week sample periods) and passive samplers. The inter-comparison study involved Environment Canada, and three groups from Germany and the United Kingdom. Results show good consensus for target compounds among participating laboratories as well as good agreement for results on perfluorinated chemicals for air samples collected by active and passive air samplers.
- In collaboration with researchers at the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and Health Canada, the Chemicals, Health and Pregnancy Study was initiated to assess human exposure to perfluorinated chemicals and PBDEs, and links to effects on maternal hormone levels. Environment Canada scientists focused on the analysis of target compounds in indoor and outdoor air samples, dryer lint and house dust employing a disk passive sampler technique, developed in-house, to collect air samples from 59 homes. Analysis of target chemicals has been completed, allowing for the reporting of ionic perfluorinated chemicals for the first time in indoor/outdoor air. Publications are in preparation.
- An atmospheric modeling study shows that toxic POPs migrate from their sources in warm latitudes to the Arctic at a high elevation of atmosphere. In higher atmospheric levels, lower air temperatures increase the residence times of the chemicals and stronger winds deliver them more efficiently to the Arctic.
- The robustness of the long-term trends in concentrations of legacy and currently used pesticides in the air over the Great Lakes was examined. Inter-annual variation in the concentrations of airborne pesticides exhibited a good association with climate--the North Atlantic Oscillation and El Niño - Southern Oscillation. For legacy pesticides (e.g. alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane), after removing their long-term decline trend driven by their degradation in air and soils, strong climate influences were demonstrated through this time-series research.
- Currently used pesticides and legacy organochlorine pesticides are being measured in air and water of the Canadian archipelago. Following expeditions to the western archipelago off Banks Island in May and July 2008, compounds identified in air and/or water were chlorpyrifos, dacthal, chlorothalonil, pendimethalin, trifluralin, endosulfan, chlordane, hexachlorocyclohexanes, heptachlor epoxide and dieldrin. Calculations show that the atmosphere is a source to water for currently used pesticides (i.e. air-to-water transfer dominates), whereas the legacy pesticides are experiencing net water-to-air transfer (i.e. water is the source to air) or a more balanced air-water exchange that occurs in both directions. Other research on currently used pesticides is being conducted in Ontario streams and the Great Lakes.
- Research continued to determine aging effects on soil-air exchange of POPs, and development of analytical methods for chiral brominated flame retardants. The bioavailability of POPs in soil has been found to decrease with residue age. Research is examining decreased aeroavailability, or increased binding to soil, as the chemical ages.
- In collaboration with National Research Council scientists, a study was initiated to establish new analytical approaches for "fingerprinting" and monitoring silver isotopes in environmental samples. This new analytical technique has recently emerged as the leading method for describing transport and transformation processes of elements in nature.
- Development continued on a method for analyzing platinum-group elements in environmental samples resulting from their use as main active components in automotive catalytic converters. Initially, it was believed that the emitted elements remained in the roadside environment, but recent studies have shown that fine particles containing platinum-group elements can be transported and distributed at regional and long-range levels.
- Research continued on a method for analyzing rare earth elements (including most of the lanthanide and actinide series) in environmental samples, as rare earth elements are excellent tracers of specific industrial emission sources. These include petroleum-refining operations that use fluidized-bed catalytic cracking processes, and oil-burning sources such as oil-fired power plants.
Research studies on pesticides in 2008-2009 included
- Research was conducted to examine the use of short-term in situ (caging in the field) exposures using a sensitive freshwater crustacean (Hyalella azteca) as a tool to predict long-term effects of current-use pesticides in aquatic ecosystems. Results showed significantly decreased survival and acetylcholinesterase activity (an enzyme that is inhibited by organophosphate and carbamate insecticides) after one-week exposures to streams in the Niagara region of southern Ontario. Data revealed that organophosphate and carbamate insecticides were detected in the surface waters at these sites.
- Previous monitoring studies across the three Prairie provinces indicated that seven herbicides (2,4-D, 4- chloro-2-methylphenoxy acetic acid (MCPA), dicamba, clopyralid, bromoxynil, dichloroprop and mecoprop) were found in prairie aquatic ecosystems. Research was conducted on the effects of a mix of seven herbicides, including glyphosate (one of the most popular herbicides used in Canada today), on attached and free-living wetland microbial communities in four prairie wetlands. These experiments were conducted on wetlands that had markedly differing salinities. Several molecular and physiological approaches were used to assess the effects and risks associated with this herbicide mixture, using complex microbial communities as indicators. Results of this study indicate that this herbicide mixture has the potential to affect energy cycling in prairie wetlands. As well, preliminary results indicate that effects of the herbicide mixture may be dampened considerably in very saline ponds. Therefore, highly saline ponds may not be as vulnerable to herbicide effects as freshwater ponds.
Research studies on metals in 2008-2009 included
- Research was undertaken on models to predict effects of mixed metals. A metal effects addition model, which was developed to predict the chronic toxicity of mixtures of metals in environmental samples to an aquatic invertebrate (Hyalella azteca), was tested at 34 sites across Canada.
- The bioavailability and toxicity of zinc from sediments with different chemistries were determined for four aquatic invertebrates (Hyalella azteca, Chironomus riparius, Hexagenia spp., and Tubifex tubifex) to derive sediment quality guidelines. Research on the bioaccumulation and toxicity of uranium in an amphipod (Hyalella azteca) from artificially spiked and naturally contaminated sediments was completed. The relative contribution of cadmium from food and water to bioaccumulation and toxicity was determined in an amphipod (Hyalella azteca). The impact of the cadmium source (food or water) on the toxic endpoint (e.g. survival, growth or reproduction) was determined.
22.214.171.124 Municipal wastewater effluents
Research studies related to municipal wastewater effluents that were undertaken in 2008-2009 included
- Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were exposed for one complete lifecycle to municipal wastewater effluent from the Hamilton Woodward plant to identify the effects on fish reproduction. Exposed fish grew well but produced fewer eggs than control fish. Analyses of municipal wastewater effluent showed the presence of several pharmaceuticals and personal care products. The highest pharmaceutical concentration was the diabetes drug metformin at 70 µg/L. Other products detected above 500 ng/L were codeine, naproxen, clarithromycin, ranitidine, ibuprofen, triclosan and azithromycin.
- Research evaluated the effects of municipal wastewater effluents on reproductive development of wild fish populations in Canada, and whether any impacts influenced the survival of fish populations and altered the fish community structure. The Grand River, Ontario, was selected for these studies, as it is one of the most highly impacted river systems in the country by municipal wastes. Wascana Creek in Regina was also selected, as during the winter low-flow periods, the creek is almost 100% treated sewage. This creek does not receive any other major discharges, making it a simpler model system to understand. As well as examining impacts on fish growth and survival, detailed tests on how the effluent affected the reproductive potential of fish were performed, as previous studies have shown effects in other countries at high effluent concentrations.
Studies in the Grand River in 2007 demonstrated increases in fish abundance and diversity downstream of wastewater effluent discharges, when compared with reference fish communities with similar habitat characteristics. However, 2008 observations were significantly different from those of 2007. The 2008 fish community assessment demonstrated decreases in the diversity of fish species and abundance immediately downstream of the wastewater discharges. As sampling continued further downstream, species diversity gradually increased until the next wastewater discharge was reached, where species diversity would again drop downstream of the discharge. This corresponded with an increase in the relative abundance of more tolerant fish species downstream of the wastewater discharges. Water flow rates in the Grand River in 2007 reflected the drought situation in southern Ontario, and the 2008 flow rates reflected the near record rainfall for the region. These differences in flow rates between years could contribute to the differences in fish abundance and species diversity observed between sampling periods. Extremes in water levels can have dramatic impacts on minimum daily dissolved oxygen concentration, habitat availability and effluent dilution.
Studies in Wascana Creek over the last two years determined that fish populations exist immediately downstream of the sewage discharge in Regina. However, conditions further downstream are unsuitable for fish survival. Detailed studies on reproductive function in fish downstream of the discharge, relative to upstream reference fish, are continuing.
- Investigations were initiated to examine the immune status of wild freshwater mussels chronically exposed to municipal effluents in the Grand River, Ontario. Mussels collected downstream of municipal effluents exhibited significantly higher levels of hemocyte phagocytosis activity (immune response) than those collected from the upstream site. Elevated phagocytosis is known to be induced by metals and elevated bacterial levels, both of which are found in municipal effluents. These data suggest that chronic exposure to municipal effluents results in immune stimulation in wild mussels.
126.96.36.199 Endocrine-disrupting substances
Research conducted on potential endocrine-disrupting substances in 2008-2009 included
- A study with colleagues from the University of Ottawa was undertaken to determine the impacts of ethinylestradiol on wild fish. Ethinylestradiol, a birth control ingredient, is discharged in wastewaters from municipal sewage treatment plants and is known to cause effects in fish at concentrations found downstream of some wastewater discharges. One of those effects is the stimulation of production (induction) of the egg yolk protein, vitellogenin, in male fish. The conventional wisdom was that ethinylestradiol would pass through fish to be readily excreted in bile, as is the case for natural estrogen. However, the study showed that bottom-feeding wild fish from the impact zone of the St. Clair River bioaccumulate ethinylestradiol. Vitellogenin is also induced in male fish from the same zone. Neither effect was observed in fish from the reference site. Ethinylestradiol is associated primarily with municipal sewage treatment plant effluents, which suggests that the Corunna sewage treatment plant is the likely cause of the observed estrogenic responses in wild fish from the Stag Island area of the St. Clair River. Stable isotope analysis suggests that ethinylestradiol bioaccumulation is a result of eating prey containing ethinylestradiol. This is the first report of the bioaccumulation of the pharmaceutical ethinylestradiol in wild fish.
- Sediments at Randle Reef, Hamilton Harbour, are highly contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals, as well as various other contaminants. Studies there have demonstrated adverse effects in fish, including elevated mortalities and increased incidences of tumours. However, reproductive effects and genetic alterations that could be inherited by future generations of fish have not been evaluated. This study exposed sub-adult Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas) to contaminated water and sediments at Randle Reef, Hamilton Harbour, using two approaches. In the first, fish were caged at Randle Reef for six weeks. In the second, fish were exposed in the laboratory to whole sediments for three weeks. Fish from both studies were transferred to clean aquaria and evaluated for reproductive impairment immediately following exposure. The study also determined germline mutation rates in fish exposed in the laboratory, using microsatellite deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) markers. Overall, no evidence was found to support the initial expectation that fish exposed to the highly contaminated sediments at Randle Reef would experience elevated germline mutations and reproductive impairment. This finding was unexpected, given the large number of studies that have reported effects following exposure to PAHs and PAH-contaminated sediments, including sediments contaminated with coal tar.
The study also exposed juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to the Randle Reef sediments in the laboratory and explored the effects of the sediment-borne contaminants on differential gene expression. More than 140 genes were isolated that were up- or down-regulated in the sediment-exposed fish compared with reference fish. The isolated messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNAs) were cloned, sequenced and compared with nucleotide sequences from databases of known fish genes. Over 60 of the mRNA segments isolated were known fish genes important in the response to stressors.
188.8.131.52 Chemicals Management Plan
Research studies undertaken in support of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan in 2008-2009 included
- Juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were exposed to the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol-A bis (2,3 dibromopropylether) under flow-through conditions. This study established the solubility of this substance under the test conditions, developed an extraction method and confirmed the waterborne concentration of the test substance.
- A method was developed for the synthesis of 3-monochloro, 5-monochloro and 3,5-dichloro derivatives of triclosan. Triclosan, an antifungal compound, has been linked to a wide range of health effects and is often detected in the aquatic environment.
- A method was developed for the synthesis of mono, di, tri and tetrachloro derivatives of bisphenol A. Bisphenol A, a component in some plastic products, has been shown to pose a risk to the environment and human health.
- Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) embryos were exposed to two dyes used in Canadian commerce: Acid Blue 80 and Disperse Yellow 7. Results showed an interesting pattern of no effect in eggs or newly hatched larvae, but lethality to four-day-old fry. This delayed mortality has implications for the lengths of exposures in regulatory fish bioassays. Results will be assessed in collaboration with measurement of environmental concentrations of these dyes in Canadian wastewaters to determine whether dye levels in the Canadian environment pose a threat to biota.
- Research on perfluorinated chemicals in the aquatic environment focused on the geographic breadth of contamination and levels of exposures. Perfluorinated chemicals were found at parts per trillion concentrations throughout the Arctic with higher concentrations near rivers and estuaries. An initial survey of Canadian rivers and streams was completed and accepted for publication in the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. This survey showed that perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid were the major perfluorinated compounds present, and that highest concentrations were found in tributaries of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and in the St. Lawrence River downstream of Montréal.
- Studies on the long-range transport and physical-chemical properties of cyclic siloxanes were conducted, and a method was developed for trace analysis of these substances. The analysis is challenging because of the ubiquitous use of silicone-based chemicals in consumer and industrial products. Preliminary results showed low levels of cyclic siloxanes in Arctic air samples collected at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, confirming the potential of these compounds to undergo long-range transport.
- Lake sediment cores, glacial ice cores and surface waters from the Arctic were collected and analyzed for new or emerging organic chemical contaminants that are a priority for screening and assessment under CEPA 1999. The use of samples from the Arctic allows for assessment of the potential for remote environments to become contaminated. Brominated flame retardants were found to be prominent contaminants in remote Arctic lakes and on the Devon Island ice cap. Among the flame retardants detected, the predominant chemical was decabromodiphenyl ether, a widely used flame retardant. It was recently proposed that this chemical be declared "toxic" according to CEPA 1999. Concentrations of decabromodiphenyl ether were found to be increasing both at the ice cap (1995-2008) and in recent (post-1990) lake sediments. Brominated flame retardants were also detected in seawater in Barrow Strait (Lancaster Sound) and Rae Strait (near Gjoa Haven) at parts per quadrillion concentrations. Currently used pesticides (endosulfan, chlorthalonil and dacthal) were detected at low part per trillion concentrations in the Devon ice cap and in seawater samples.
- The extent of groundwater contamination discharging to surface water was studied in three urban streams to test a new sampling method involving direct sampling below the stream bed. The sites were located in Angus, Ontario; Amherst, Nova Scotia; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. All three locations had a known plume of groundwater containing chlorinated solvents heading to the streams, which allowed for testing of the screening methodology. The known chlorinated solvent plume was detected at each location and roughly delineated.
- Methods were developed to determine the presence of polybrominated-chlorinated biphenyls in fish. These chemicals can be formed through the combustion of brominated flame retardants in the presence of chlorine, and also during municipal waste incineration. Analysis of samples of Lake Ontario fish showed that several polybrominated-chlorinated biphenyls were present at part per trillion levels. These compounds have not been reported previously in North American samples. Follow-up studies are planned because the biological effects of these chemicals may be similar to those of PCBs as well as chlorinated dioxins and furans.
- Development of methods for the chemical detection in the environment of Chemicals Management Plan medium-priority compounds (anthracenedione dyes and azo dyes) and emerging compounds (such as antibiotics) was a key activity. Methods were developed to extract and analyze dyestuffs from aqueous matrices (including wastewater effluent) as well as from sediments. In addition, Soxhlet and microwave-assisted methods were developed to determine antibiotics in sediments. Researchers developed a method for measuring low concentrations of propanedinitrile, [[4-[[2-(4-cyclohexylphenoxy)ethyl] ethylamino]-2-methylphenyl]methylene]- (CHPD), a dye that was declared toxic under CEPA 1999 and targeted for virtual elimination. This new method will be used to develop a strategy to ensure that CHPD is virtually eliminated from the environment. Research into the plausibility of using micellar-enhanced ultrafiltration to remove antibiotics from wastewater demonstrated that the ultrafiltration technique significantly improved contaminant removal.
184.108.40.206 Substance-specific research
Substance-specific research in 2008-2009 included
- Monitoring was completed on the long-term temporal and spatial trends of priority toxic chemicals (e.g. perfluoroalkyl compounds and brominated flame retardants) and regulated legacy compounds (e.g. 1,1,1-trichoro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) and PCBs) in eggs of fish-eating seabird bioindicator species (e.g. gulls, puffins and cormorants) and in other selected wildlife in the Arctic, Pacific (particularly in the Strait of Georgia) and Atlantic marine environments as well as the St. Lawrence River - Great Lakes ecosystem. Conducted in association with international collaborators, the projects obtained information on the presence, sources, environmental pathways and effects of these compounds on birds and other species, and their food webs. For Great Lakes Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and their aquatic food web, the results show that perfluoroalkyl compounds and brominated flame retardants are currently in a state of change; depending on the substance, they can show greater or lesser trends in their amount of residues increasing over time. For example increases in PBDE levels have been lower in recent years. At the same time, new generations of contaminant stressors to Herring Gulls are on the rise.
- Analyses were completed of essential and non-essential elements in the livers of polar bears collected from five regions in Canada in 2002, in Alaska between 1994 and 1999, and from the northwest and east coasts of Greenland between 1988 and 2000. The analyses showed that concentrations of most elements in polar bears did not exceed toxicity thresholds, although cadmium and mercury exceeded levels correlated with the formation of hepatic lesions in animals studied in the laboratory. Geographical trends were observed for a number of elements in livers, including mercury.
- Liver activities of major contaminant-metabolizing enzymes and circulating PCBs and PBDEs (and their hydroxylated analogues) were shown to differ in cohorts of captive west Greenland sledge dogs exposed to a control and contaminated diet of minke whale blubber. Dietary, age-related and trans-generational effects were also observed on the fate of various chlorinated and brominated organic contaminants.
- The thyroid hormone transport protein, transthyretin, was isolated, cloned and sequenced, and found to be identical between Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus). In competitive binding studies with the gull transthyretin and natural thyroid hormones, several environmentally relevant substances and degradation (metabolite) products were found to effectively bind to the transthyretin. This finding suggested that environmentally relevant hydroxide-containing PCB and PBDE congeners, and to a lesser extent PCB and PBDE congeners, have a high potential to be physiologically active in these gull species by disturbing thyroid hormone transport.
- The production and use of non-PBDE brominated flame retardant alternatives have been on the rise. Non-PBDE flame retardants and isomers of the chlorinated flame retardant Dechlorane Plus were detected in eggs collected from 1982 to 2006 from seven Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) colonies in the five Great Lakes. Dechlorane Plus concentrations were generally higher after the mid-1990s for all sites. Over the past 25 years, Dechlorane Plus isomers have accumulated in the food web of female Herring Gulls with subsequent transfer during egg formation.
- A study with ringed seals (Pusa hispida) revealed that the concentration and pattern of PCBs and the formation of hydroxy and methylsulfonyl PCB metabolites differed between two ringed seal populations. The two populations are contrasted by the degree of contamination exposure (in this case, the highly contaminated Baltic Sea and less contaminated Svalbard areas).
- Studies on the effects and toxicokinetics of selected brominated flame retardants on American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) being held in a captive colony were completed. Changes in reproductive success, eggshell thinning and nestling growth were found with dietary or in ovo exposure. The work is being published in the scientific literature and three graduate students are completing thesis research.
- An ongoing assessment of the impact of methylmercury, lake acidity and related stressors on the breeding success of Common Loons (Gavia immer) and other wildlife in eastern Canada continued through studies in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and western Canada.
- Studies of the toxicity of methylmercury to developing avian embryos are being undertaken for a variety of seabird species to determine the comparative sensitivities of these species to methylmercury exposure and to estimate toxic-effect concentrations.
- Investigations of the relationships between contaminant levels and parasite load in fish-eating birds (e.g. Double-crested Cormorants [Phalacrocorax auritus] from the Great Lakes) were continued to improve understanding of how contaminants and parasites may be interacting to affect the health of wildlife.
- Exposure and effects studies of Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nestlings continued on the Pacific coast of North America. Results showed that exposure of eagles to PCBs and DDT-related compounds was highly influenced by trophic level (level in the food chain) and marine carbon input. However, levels of brominated flame retardants did not appear to be influenced by trophic level, perhaps suggesting some capability of the animals to metabolize those chemicals.
- A collaborative study with colleagues in Wales showed that American (Cinclus mexicanus) and European populations of Dippers were exposed to different patterns of persistent contaminants. Exposure of American Dippers to PCBs and brominated flame retardants was substantially greater as a result of their feeding on juvenile salmon, compared with the invertebrate diet of their European counterpart.
Research on analytical methods in 2008-2009 included
- A collaborative study with Norwegian and Faroese scientists was carried out to investigate whether biochemical markers in free-ranging Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) are related to organochlorine levels. There were significant correlations between one of the biomarkers and most of the organochlorine groups in the Canadian birds studied.
- Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolour) colonies were established at reference and test sites, and methods were selected and refined for wildlife sampling and standard toxicity testing. The methods established will be used for undertaking long-term studies to identify and assess the occurrence and ecological effects of chemicals found in sewage treatment plant effluents using selected wildlife indicators.
- Laboratory analyses of fatty acids in birds and other wildlife continued. Ecological tracers such as fatty acids were used in combination with other methods (e.g. stable isotopes) to assess how contaminants, nutrients and pathogens are being transferred to wildlife through food webs. This approach provided insight into sources of emerging contaminants (e.g. brominated and fluorinated chemicals) and into the factors regulating exposure to these chemicals in wildlife.
- Work continued on use of river otter (Lontra canadensis) feces as a non-intrusive sampling method, and was expanded to include DNA-genotype measurements, thus allowing the identification of individual otters. Combining DNA and contaminant measurements of scats permitted assessments of otter movement over time and space as well as an assessment of population characteristics. Results have been shared with federal contaminated sites managers, and further studies are under way to determine whether Victoria harbour, and possibly Vancouver harbour, populations are impacted by residual contamination of harbour sediments.
- Work continued to establish and validate new methods based on analyses of gene expression combined with cultures of neuronal and other tissue types from wild and domestic birds. These new methods aim to assess toxicity of commercial industrial contaminant mixtures, and various individual congeners of polybrominated diphenyls and other priority substances.
The following human health studies have contributed or will contribute to risk assessments of chemical substances.
220.127.116.11 Exposure and biomonitoring
Research on exposure and biomonitoring in 2008-2009 included
- The Canadian Health Measures Survey is a national survey carried out by Statistics Canada, in collaboration with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, to collect information from Canadians about their health. The survey includes a biomonitoring component to measure human levels of environmental chemicals in a sample that represents the overall Canadian population. A total of 5600 randomly selected Canadians aged 6-79 were tested at 15 collection sites. Blood and urine specimens were collected from the participants and analyzed for a number of substances. This survey will provide baseline data to track trends and allow for comparisons with sub-populations in Canada and with other countries. The results will also help to focus future research efforts on the links between exposure and health, and provide information to guide action by governments. Biomonitoring data from the first cycle of the survey, conducted from 2007 to 2009, will be released in July 2010. The second cycle of the survey is currently under way and includes children aged 3-5.
- Two migration studies were conducted on bisphenol A. The first migration study, completed in March 2008, investigated selected brands of polycarbonate baby bottles. The test results were considered in the final screening assessment report for bisphenol A released in October 2008. The second migration study in September 2008 evaluated selected brands of non-polycarbonate baby bottles and baby bottle liners, and the test results were published in a peer-reviewed journal in June 2009. Bisphenol A has also been measured in house dust samples through the Health Canada Canadian House Dust Study.
- A national survey of contaminants in Canadian drinking water is under way. This three-year study is examining levels of disinfection by-products, both new and regulated, and selected emerging contaminants in Canadian drinking water. Sixty water treatment plants and distribution systems are being sampled across Canada. More than 100 water quality parameters and contaminant concentrations are being determined for each location. The results will provide updated exposure data to be used in the preparation and update of the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
- Studies are under way on dermal absorption of substances being assessed under the Chemicals Management Plan. Skin is a major route of entry to the human body for many substances, especially those in consumer products such as cosmetics. As a result, it is important to understand how chemicals are transported from the outer surface of the skin to internal layers and blood circulation. This knowledge is especially important when trying to determine what types of chemicals Canadians are exposed to, and how these may affect human health. This project is establishing routine test methods to measure the dermal absorption of chemicals that have been identified as having a priority for human health, which will allow for more accurate estimates of exposure levels.
- A national indoor air survey of chemicals is measuring selected priority chemicals in Canadian residential indoor air. Indoor air samples are being collected and analyzed in a randomly selected national sample of Canadian homes, whose occupants are participating in the Canadian Health Measures Survey. At the same time, outdoor (ambient) air concentrations from selected major cities and rural areas are being determined in the sampling sites of Environment Canada's National Air Pollution Surveillance Network to generate baseline information for target chemicals in these areas.
- Research is under way to examine dietary exposure estimates of young children to emerging POPs and plasticizers. Foods frequently consumed by infants and young children are being analyzed for contaminants, including perfluorinated compounds, PBDEs and bisphenol A. The outcomes of this study will complement other ongoing Health Canada biomonitoring projects that are measuring the same chemicals in blood and human milk. This study will provide needed information on children's exposure to more short-lived contaminants that are rapidly excreted, such as bisphenol A, whose long-term exposure is not well-characterized by measurements in blood or other biological matrices.
18.104.22.168 Hazard identification
Research on hazard identification in 2008-2009 included
- Ongoing studies examined the toxicity of chemical mixtures by determining interaction between components of the mixtures on both the development of long-term neurobehavioural function and glucose control, as well as changes in tissue residue levels in both parent animals and offspring as a function of co-exposure to chemicals.
- A rodent study was completed to assess the impact of dieting and the severity of diet regimen on the mobilization of lipophilic contaminants from fat stores in adult rodents.
- A chronic swine study was completed to assess the bioavailability of lead from soil and the potential cardiotoxicity of chronic exposure to lead in soil. Parallel in vitro bioaccessibility studies using the same lead soil were also conducted by collaborators.
- Several projects have addressed the developmental toxicity of endocrine-disrupting substances. Studies funded through the Chemicals Management Plan to examine the molecular targets of endocrine-disrupting substances have progressed to the development of rapid in vitro methods for identifying substances with thyroid hormone disrupting potential.
- In vivo and in vitro studies are being conducted to investigate mode and mechanism of actions of priority substances (e.g. mixtures of endocrine disrupters) under the Chemicals Management Plan. In vivo studies are being conducted in rodents to identify the critical period of development (in utero and/or the postnatal periods) sensitive to endocrine disruption caused by two different mixtures administered alone or in combination.
22.214.171.124 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
- develop a greater mechanistic understanding of processes within cells that produce genetic instability in certain repetitive DNA sequences across generations of germline and somatic cells in response to chemical exposure, in order to develop improved tools to identify and predict the hazards of environmental exposures;
- enhance the scientific understanding of adverse health effects associated with exposures to complex particulate matrices, including dust, vehicular emissions, silica particles, carbon black, cigarette smoke, cannabis smoke and engineered nanoparticles, by assessing mutagenic effects and gene expression changes in response to controlled laboratory and/or in situ exposures;
- develop proteomic and metabolomic methods allowing the identification of biomarkers of air pollutant toxicity, for example, from ozone or various airborne particulate materials.
126.96.36.199 Population studies
Human population studies in 2008-2009 included
- Epidemiological studies were conducted to evaluate the relationship between population exposure to air pollution and mortality, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, cancer incidence and infant health. Epidemiology panel studies were undertaken, using indoor, outdoor and personal air-pollutant exposure monitoring techniques, to assess children's exposure to source-specific pollutants, and the relation to their cardiovascular and respiratory outcomes.
- Ongoing refinement and use of the Air Quality Benefit Assessment Tool continued to estimate health benefits of proposed air pollution reductions. Methodologies for the analysis of life expectancy and quality-of-life impacts of ozone and particulate matter were being developed and will be applied to the tool. A study was undertaken to develop risk estimates specific to the most highly susceptible segments of the population. New health endpoints, such as pregnancy outcomes, were also studied.
- The Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals is a national, multi-partner, five-year study recruiting 2000 pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancy. The pregnant women are followed through pregnancy and up to eight weeks after birth. This study is measuring the extent to which pregnant women and their babies are exposed to environmental chemicals; assessing what pregnancy health risks, if any, are associated with exposure to heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and manganese); and measuring the levels of environmental chemicals and some of the beneficial components (nutritional and immune constituents) of breast milk.
- A Canadian study is evaluating the importance of sources of lead exposure, such as drinking water in contact with lead service lines, dust and paint, by comparing Canadian children aged 1-5 living in areas served by lead service lines, with children of the same age living in similar homes served by non-lead pipes.
- A biomonitoring study focusing on environmental lead exposure in children from pre-1970s housing in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, is under way. This study is measuring lead exposure (blood lead levels) in young children living in a range of housing ages in St. John's. Concurrent measurement of residential lead levels in the sample households will permit an evaluation of exposure sources.
- A study on plastics and personal care products used during pregnancy is recruiting 80 pregnant women from the Ottawa area and collecting multiple maternal urine samples, detailed consumer product/food packaging diaries, infant urine and meconium (earliest stools), and breast milk. Meconium is being evaluated as a potential matrix for measuring in utero exposure. Biospecimens are being analyzed for phthalates and their metabolites, bisphenol A, triclosan and triclocarban.
188.8.131.52 Air quality health Impacts
Air quality human health studies in 2008-2009 included
- Collection of baseline data for a range of air pollutants typically found in residences was completed for the Regina indoor and outdoor air quality study. Participant reports were completed and distributed, and data analysis continues. A similar collaborative study was initiated in Halifax to collect baseline data for a range of air pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, dust and fungal contaminants.
- Spatial monitoring of air pollutants was initiated in Ottawa, Hamilton and Windsor, and completed in Winnipeg, to provide baseline information required to develop methodologies to investigate specific industrial sector sources.
- Monitoring results previously obtained in the Windsor study under the Border Air Quality Strategy are being used to develop methods of spatial analysis to estimate the Canadian population's exposure to source-specific air pollutants more precisely.
- Analysis of results continued for the Windsor exposure assessment study and the Toronto case control study for asthmatic children. The east Montréal panel study to examine the personal exposure of asthmatic school children was initiated, with fieldwork to be completed in 2009-2010. The Montréal congestive heart failure study that monitors patients commenced in 2008 and will continue to March 2011.
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.
* 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.
|Guidelines/guidance documents||Published||In Progress|
|Guideline technical documents||
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
- Air quality -- Nationally, ground-level ozone exposure increased approximately 11% from 1990 to 2006, but the increasing trend in annual ozone exposures has slowed in recent years. No trend was detected in fine particulate matter exposure from 2000 to 2006.
- Water quality -- From 2004 to 2006, water quality in southern Canada for the protection of aquatic life was rated as excellent at 24 sites (6%), good at 159 sites (42%), fair at 113 sites (30%), marginal at 68 sites (18%) and poor at 15 sites (4%).
- Greenhouse gases -- Emissions in 2006 were 22% higher than in 1990. Emissions peaked in 2004 at 743 megatonnes and then declined by 3% from 2004 to 2006.
The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators website was redesigned in 2008-2009 to make it more relevant and accessible to Canadians by
- presenting the information in a more concise and less technical manner by answering key questions about each issue;
- linking indicator results to their key social and economic drivers, as well as to how they are influenced by individual or household behaviour;
- including the ability to view and search for local or regional information on a map and, for the first time, to compare Canada's performance with that of other G-8 countries; and
- providing easier navigation to find key information related to the three main indicators of air quality, water quality and greenhouse gases.
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:
- 2006 Air Pollutant Emissions Data and Updated Trends (April 2008);
- Final Report of the National Pollutant Release Inventory Multi-Stakeholder Work Group on Substances 2008 (August 2008);
- Reporting Facilities' and Data Users' Views on the National Pollutant Release Inventory: Final Report (June 2008); and
- Reviewed NPRI facility data for 2007 was published in December 2008, including NPRI 2007 Highlights, a 2007 Facility Data Summary, resources for accessing NPRI facility data in various formats, and frequently asked questions.
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.
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