Follow up on decision on assessment of releases of used crankcase oils: chapter 1

1. Issue

1.1 Background on used crankcase oils

Used crankcase oils (UCOs) was listed on the first Priority Substances List (PSL1). In the 1994 Priority Substances List Assessment Report, waste crankcase oils, there was insufficient information to conclude whether UCOs constituted a danger to the environment under Paragraph 11(a) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, due to lack of exposure and effects data for the selected scenarios of concern (i.e., dust suppressant, land disposal, burning as fuel, and re-refining).

On June 21, 2003, Environment Canada published the summary of the Draft follow-up report on a PSL1 substance for which there was insufficient information to conclude whether the substance constitutes a danger to the environment, waste/used crankcase oils in the Canada Gazette, Part I.  The report concluded that UCOs are entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity.  During the public comment period, Environment Canada received a number of written comments.  The majority of these addressed risk management and did not change the conclusion of the report which was that UCOs are toxic to the environment. A notice was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on August 4, 2007 which summarized the final assessment report and informed Environment Canada’s decision to take no further action in respect to UCOs since adequate risk management measures were already in place. In addition, Environment Canada committed to work with Canadian governments and industry to monitor publicly available information on used oil management programs in Canadian provinces and territories and if results indicated that existing preventive and control actions were not effective, the Ministers of the Environment and Health may consider taking further action under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

Hence, as a follow up to the decision to take no further action, the following report re-evaluates provincial and territorial preventative and control actions against several criteria and concludes whether these actions constitute effective risk management measures for UCOs.

1.2 Substance information

UCOs are defined as used lubricating oil removed from the crankcase of internal combustion engines.  Before they are used, crankcase oils consist of a base lubricating oil (a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, 80 to 90% by volume) and performance-enhancing additives (10 to 20% by volume). Crankcase oils are altered during use because of the breakdown of the additives, contamination with the products of combustion, and the addition of metals from the wear and tear of the engine.

Generally, UCOs are a complex mixture of substances, many of which are already declared toxic and on Schedule 1 of CEPA. These substances include:

  • arsenic and its compounds
  • benzene
  • cadmium
  • chromium and its compounds
  • acidic, sulfidic and soluble inorganic nickel
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • trichloroethylene
  • tetrachloroethylene
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • lead
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
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