Environmental monitoring and surveillance in support of the chemicals management plan - Bisphenol A in the Canadian environment

Official title: Environmental monitoring and surveillance in support of the chemicals management plan - Bisphenol A in the Canadian environment

Environment and Climate Change Canada

March 2020

1. Introduction

The Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) is a joint initiative by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada (HC) with the objective to protect the health and environment of Canadians from harmful substances. Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a man-made chemical compound used in the plastics industry to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b). Under the CMP, Canada was the first country to take action on BPA (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008a). Through risk assessment activities conducted under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the Government of Canada concluded in a 2008 Screening Assessment Report that BPA posed a risk to the environment and human health (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b). Based on this conclusion, BPA was added to the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999 (Canada, 2010). The Government of Canada subsequently developed and implemented measures to reduce the risk from BPA to the environment and human health (Canada, 2018b). In addition, BPA is a substance reportable to the National Pollutants Release Inventory.  

The Government of Canada has been monitoring BPA in the environment and in wastewater and landfill leachate across Canada for various time periods starting in 2004. Results from these monitoring activities have supported the risk management actions taken for this chemical, including the evaluation of their effectiveness to reduce the concentrations of BPA in the environment (ECCC, 2020).  This report summarizes data collected as part of these monitoring activities.

2. Context

2.1 Monitoring and surveillance under the chemicals management plan

Monitoring (a system of long-term standardized measurements) and surveillance (focused short-term standardized measurements) are key elements of the Government of Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan and are important for identifying exposures to substances and associated environmental or human health implications. For simplicity, the term “monitoring” will be used throughout this report to refer to both “monitoring and surveillance”. Monitoring information feeds into science-based decision-making processes, such as assessing whether a substance is harmful to the environment or human health and evaluating the effectiveness of measures put in place to manage the risk posed by the substance.

Under the CMP Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance Program, ECCC scientists collect data on the concentrations of specific chemical substances in air, surface water, sediment, and wildlife (fish, birds) across Canada. Recognizing that many chemicals of concern ultimately end up in wastewater and waste, monitoring at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and landfill sites is also conducted. Monitoring for BPA was conducted in surface water (2008 to 2018), sediment (2011 to 2018), fish (2004 to 2009), bird egg and plasma (2009 to 2015), wastewater (2008 to 2013), and in landfill leachate (2008 to 2013) collected from selected sampling sites across Canada.

Health Canada conducts human biomonitoring and monitoring in media of concern to human health including house dust, indoor air, and drinking water. With regards to BPA, biomonitoring analysis was conducted, as well as liquid and powdered infant formula surveys (Health Canada, 2018). These activities fall outside the scope of this report.

The goal of this report is to summarize monitoring data generated by ECCC in order to provide information on the spatial distribution of BPA in Canada and on temporal trends of this substance in certain environmental media from 2004 to 2018. The information presented in this report is used as part of the Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Risk Management Measures for Bisphenol A (BPA) – Ecological Component (ECCC, 2020), which aims to evaluate the effectiveness of measures that have been put in place since 2012 to manage the risk posed by BPA to the environment.

2.2 Background on BPA

BPA is a synthetic substance used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins (Cheminfo Services Inc., 2012; Crain et al., 2007; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b). Polycarbonate plastic is a clear, thick, and resilient material found in reusable water bottles, CDs, DVDs, eyewear such as goggles and sun glasses, microwaveable food containers, bicycle helmets, and many other common household and consumer items (Beronius and Hanberg, 2011). Epoxy resins are used in a wide variety of products; in Canada they are used in paints/coatings and as plating agents, as intermediates in the manufacture of other products, in adhesives and sealants in grout, flooring, plastics and concrete, lubricants, and additives, and in the petroleum production process to prevent corrosion and build-up (ECCC and HC, 2019). BPA is also present in thermal paper used, for example, in receipts from retail stores and in airplane and lottery tickets (Bernier and Vandenberg, 2017).

BPA is produced in high volumes worldwide; in 2015, global BPA usage was approximately 7.7 million metric tonnes and was predicted to reach 10.6 million tonnes by 2022 (Research and Markets, 2016). The quantity of BPA reported to be used by Canadian facilities subject to a pollution prevention notice for BPA was about 1,000 kg in 2016 (Canada, 2018a).

Releases of BPA to the environment may occur during the production, processing, use, or disposal of the substance or products containing it, especially if products are exposed to high heat (Cooper et al., 2011; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008a; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b). Though the quantities released from each product are small, the quantity of products in use makes this source non-negligible. BPA may also enter the environment through the application of biosolids from wastewater treatment on agricultural fields (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b; Lee and Peart, 2000). Degradation of the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) is also a source of BPA to the environment under oxygen-poor conditions, such as those found in buried sediment (Arbeli et al., 2006; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2013; Voordeckers et al., 2002). There are no known natural sources of BPA.

BPA is not persistent under aerobic conditions and has a half-life of approximately 4 hours in air and 1 week in water and soil (Cousins et al., 2002; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b; Staples et al., 1998). However, under oxygen-poor conditions, BPA does not degrade or degrades slowly (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b; Voordeckers et al., 2002; Ying and Kookana, 2003). Despite its relatively short aerobic half-life, BPA is frequently detected in the environment because continuous anthropogenic releases replenish BPA that is lost through degradation (Flint et al., 2012). BPA is an endocrine disruptor and can adversely affect reproduction, growth, and development of both aquatic and terrestrial organisms (ECCC, 2018). BPA has a low to moderate potential to bioaccumulate in organisms in part due to their metabolism; many animals are able to degrade and excrete this chemical and its metabolites (Belfroid et al., 2002; Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2008b; Flint et al., 2012).

ECCC has developed Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines (FEQGs) to assess the ecological significance of levels of BPA in the environment (ECCC, 2018). The report Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Risk Management Measures for Bisphenol A (BPA) – Ecological Component (ECCC, 2020) compares the FEQGs to the environmental levels of BPA presented in this report in order to evaluate the effectiveness of risk management actions taken for this chemical.   

3. Monitoring results

Results and analysis for BPA concentrations measured by ECCC between 2004 and 2018, in surface water, sediment, fish, and birds across Canada are presented below, with a focus on spatial distribution. As much as possible, the monitoring sites for surface water, sediment, and fish were selected to represent major drainage regions across Canada (Appendix A). In addition, BPA monitoring sites for all media aimed to incorporate existing locations of long-term monitoring.  Temporal trends of BPA are presented for surface water as well as in three dated sediment cores collected from Lake Ontario in 2013 and the St. Lawrence River (Lake St. Pierre and Boucherville Islands) in 2012. Monitoring results for Canadian wastewater (2009 to 2013) and landfill leachate (2008 to 2013) are also described below. When more than one data point for a given medium and location were available, the median (that is, the 50th percentile) and maximum values are reported.

3.1 Surface water

The data presented for surface water originates from samples collected at 51 sites (10 drainage regions) within streams, rivers, and lakes across the country between 2008 and 2018 (Figures 1 and 2). The frequency of surface water collection varied, with samples typically obtained on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on the site and year. The BPA concentrations in surface water collected between 2012 and 2018 are also presented in Lalonde and Garron (2020).

A portion of surface water samples were collected upstream and downstream of a municipal WWTP in three water bodies, namely the Grand River, Ontario, Thames River, Ontario, and Wascana Creek, Saskatchewan. For each of these systems, BPA concentrations were higher downstream (median = 14 ng/L for Grand River, 13 ng/L for Thames River, and 75 ng/L for Wascana Creek) than upstream (median = less than the detection limit of 3.7 to 14.4 ng/L for Grand River, Thames River, and Wascana Creek). It is important to note that BPA is not produced by the WWTPs, but quantities may persist in wastewater after treatment (see wastewater section).

BPA levels were higher in urban water bodies compared to rural or mixed-use water bodies. For example, BPA was consistently detected in Toronto, Ontario, streams such as Mimico Creek (median = 44 ng/L), Highland Creek (median = 17 ng/L), and Taylor Creek (median = 34 ng/L). Historical industrial sources also appeared to influence early BPA surface water measurements. For example, between 2008 and 2012, prior to the implementation of risk management measures, BPA concentrations in Beaverdams Creek, in Thorold, Ontario, were the highest in the surface water monitoring record (median = 338 ng/L, maximum =  6,370 ng/L). The monitoring site in Beaverdams Creek is downstream of two paper-recycling mills (one was later idled indefinitely). The BPA concentrations in Beaverdams Creek upstream of the two mills were substantially lower (median = 13 ng/L), indicating that the mills may have been major contributors of BPA at the time. More recent BPA concentrations in surface water collected from Beaverdams Creek between 2013 and 2018 were considerably lower than previously measured (median = below the detection limit (3.7 to 14.4 ng/L), maximum = 1,889 ng/L).

BPA was only occasionally detected in surface water collected from rural areas. For example, sampling sites in smaller communities such as Emerson, Manitoba on the Red River, and Napan, New Brunswick on the Napan River, had medians below the detection level (3.7 to 14.4 ng/L). In addition, BPA concentrations were generally low in surface water collected from large waterbodies such as the St. Lawrence River (median = below the detection limit (3.7 to 14.4 ng/L)) and the Niagara River (median = below the detection limit (3.7 to 14.4 ng/L)), where the large volumes of water can dilute potentially high BPA concentrations to low levels. Major exceptions to this include enclosed harbours with WWTP discharges. This is shown in a site on the south side of Hamilton Harbour (Site 914, median = 47 ng/L), which is located adjacent to the diffuser of one of three WWTPs discharging to the harbour.

Figure 1: BPA concentrations in surface water (2008 to 2018) samples collected across Canada.
Long description

BPA concentrations at surface water sampling locations are presented on a map of Canada. Where more than one data point was available for a given location, the median value was plotted, and is represented by a blue bar proportional to the one in the legend. The green circles represent sites where either BPA was not detected, or, if there were multiple samples, the median was below the detection level. The data shown in the figure is the same as the data on medians presented in Figure 2. The divisions on the map represent Canada's drainage regions, which are identified in Appendix A, comprising 25 of Canada's major rivers.

Figure 2: BPA concentrations in surface water bodies across Canada between 2008 and 2018.
Long description

BPA concentrations at each surface water sampling location are displayed on a graph. For each location, the median (that is, the 50th percentile) concentration is shown as a black circle and the maximum concentration is shown as a red “×”. The median and maximum concentrations are not shown if they are under the detection limit for the methodology used in their analysis, that is, if they contained too little BPA for it to be detected. The detection limits vary between samples (with a range of 1 to 14.4 ng/L) as there were different methodologies used in quantifying their BPA content. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of water samples collected and analyzed for BPA at each location.

Data table for the graph

Region

Sub-region

Location

Median

Max

Atlantic Region

-

Napan River (35)

ND

450

Atlantic Region

-

Sackville River at Bedford (12)

ND

10

Atlantic Region

-

Lower Little Sackville River (36)

ND

23

Atlantic Region

-

Waterford River (54)

ND

42

Atlantic Region

-

St. John River – Upstream (24)

ND

77

Atlantic Region

-

St. John River – Downstream (22)

ND

106

Quebec region

-

Chaudière River (9)

ND

ND

Quebec region

-

St. Lawrence River at Quebec (55)

ND

11

Quebec region

-

St. Lawrence River at Lavaltrie (82)

9.1

180

Quebec region

-

St. Lawrence River at Berthierville (11)

 ND

140

Quebec region

-

Princeville brook (8)

 ND

 ND

Quebec region

-

Bras Saint-Victor (8)

 ND

 ND

Ontario region

-

St. Lawrence River at Wolfe Island (47)

ND

40

Ontario region

-

Ottawa River (31)

ND

11

Ontario region

-

Prescott WWTP outfall (3)

ND

ND

Ontario region

-

Trent River (3)

 ND

ND

Ontario region

Urban Toronto sites

Mimico Creek (60)

44

179

Ontario region

Urban Toronto sites

Highland Creek (86)

17

1941

Ontario region

Urban Toronto sites

Taylor Creek (83)

34

239

Ontario region

Urban Toronto sites

Credit River (28)

 ND

50

Ontario region

-

Beaverdams Creek (74)

101

6370

Ontario region

-

Fort Erie (23)

ND

ND

Ontario region

-

St. Catharines - Dicks Creek (46)

26

266

Ontario region

-

Niagara River at Niagara-on-the-Lake (44)

ND

14

Ontario region

-

Hamilton Harbour - Site 926 (55)

11

101

Ontario region

-

Hamilton Harbour - Site 914 (83)

47

2897

Ontario region

-

Hamilton Harbour - Site 1001 (30)

ND

86

Ontario region

-

Hamilton Harbour - Site 909 (60)

11

106

Ontario region

Grand River

Upstream Kitchener/Waterloo (71)

ND

54

Ontario region

Grand River

Downstream Kitchener/Waterloo (79)

14

67

Ontario region

Grand River

Downstream of Galt’s WWTP (12)

ND

173

Ontario region

Thames River

Upstream London (72)

ND

14

Ontario region

Thames River

Downstream London (78)

13

199

Red River

-

Downstream of Selkirk’s WWTP (34)

ND

271

Red River

-

Upstream of Lake Winnipeg (13)

ND

125

Red River

-

Downstream of Winnipeg’s WWTP (17)

ND

40

Red River

-

Near Emerson (17)

ND

44

Wascana Creek

-

Upstream Regina (42)

ND

131

Wascana Creek

-

Downstream Regina (83)

75

603

Pacific Region

-

Upper Mill Creek (39)

 ND

14

Pacific Region

-

Mill Creek – Kelowna (18)

ND

39

Pacific Region

-

 Lower Mill Creek (42)

ND

49

Pacific Region

-

Okanagan River at Oliver (30)

ND

7.6

Pacific Region

-

Okanagan River at Penticton (15)

ND

11

Pacific Region

-

Osoyoos Lake (31)

ND

188

Pacific Region

-

Serpentine River (32)

10

61

Pacific Region

-

Upper Fraser River (1)

ND

ND

Pacific Region

-

Main Arm of Fraser River (2)

ND

ND

Pacific Region

-

North Arm of Fraser River (2)

ND

ND

Pacific Region

-

Fishtrap Creek (17)

ND

8.0

Pacific Region

-

Still Creek (72)

21

229

ND = Not detected

Time trends of BPA were evaluated in surface water at 12 sites where samples were collected consistently over a 10-year period. These sites include St. Lawrence River at Quebec, St. Lawrence River at Lavaltrie (Quebec), Highland Creek (Ontario), Taylor Creek (Ontario), Hamilton Harbour (Sites 909, 914, and 926; Ontario), Beaverdams Creek (Ontario), Grand River (Ontario) downstream of Kitchener/Waterloo, Thames River (Ontario) downstream of London, Wascana Creek (Saskatchewan) downstream of Regina, and Still Creek (British Columbia). The time trends of BPA in surface water were statistically analyzed using the Seasonal Kendall trend test (Gewurtz et al., 2019; Helsel and Hirsch, 2002; Millard, 2018) and the trend line was calculated using Akritas-Theil-Sen nonparametric regression (Helsel, 2012).Footnote 1 Significant declining trends (p<0.05) between 2008 and 2018 were found at 9 of 12 of these long-term monitoring sites. For instance, the time trend results for three sites, Hamilton Harbour Site 909, Beaverdams Creek, and Still Creek are shown in Figure 3.  St. Lawrence River at Lavaltrie, Hamilton Harbour (Site 914), and Wascana Creek, downstream of Regina, were the only locations where BPA concentrations in surface water did not significantly (p>0.05) decrease between 2008 and 2018. It should be noted that the BPA concentrations in surface water were analyzed in three different analytical laboratories.  Between 2008 and 2011, the samples were analyzed at ECCC’s National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ontario, between 2012 and March 2014, the samples were analyzed by AXYS Analytical Services Ltd. in Sidney, British Columbia, and between April 2014 and 2018, the samples were analyzed by ECCC’s National Laboratory for Environmental Testing in Burlington, Ontario. A detailed description of the time trends of BPA in surface water is presented in Gewurtz et al. (2020).

Figure 3: Time trends of BPA concentrations in three surface water bodies in Canada between 2008 and 2018.
Long description

Declining time trends of BPA concentrations in surface water in Hamilton Harbour (Site 909, Ontario), Beaverdams Creek (Ontario), and Still Creek (British Columbia), are displayed. The detection limits vary between samples as there were different methodologies used in quantifying their BPA content.

Data tables for the graphs

Hamilton Harbour (Site 909), ON

Trend line (representation): log Concentration = -0.00044×Date + 19

Date

Concentration

Detection Status

September 2008

12

Detected

October 2008

13

Detected

November 2008

106

Detected

December 2008

16

Detected

April 2009

86

Detected

May 2009

34

Detected

June 2009

25

Detected

July 2009

9.0

Detected

August 2009

10

Detected

September 2009

5.0

Not detected

October 2009

11

Detected

November 2009

14

Detected

December 2009

19

Detected

May 2010

44

Detected

June 2010

27

Detected

July 2010

14

Detected

August 2010

14

Detected

September 2010

7.9

Detected

October 2010

8.3

Detected

November 2010

17

Detected

December 2010

25

Detected

May 2011

78

Detected

June 2011

58

Detected

July 2011

25

Detected

August 2011

8.8

Detected

September 2011

6.4

Detected

July 2012

5.0

Not detected

September 2012

6.7

Detected

November 2012

16

Detected

December 2012

24

Detected

January 2013

19

Detected

April 2013

79

Detected

July 2013

9.0

Detected

October 2013

13

Detected

April 2014

50

Detected

July 2014

12

Detected

October 2014

5.0

Not detected

November 2014

14

Not detected

April 2015

12

Detected

May 2015

3.7

Not detected

June 2015

3.7

Not detected

July 2015

3.7

Not detected

August 2015

3.7

Not detected

September 2015

3.7

Not detected

October 2015

3.7

Not detected

November 2015

3.7

Not detected

December 2015

3.7

Not detected

April 2016

3.7

Not detected

May 2016

3.7

Not detected

June 2016

3.7

Not detected

July 2016

3.7

Not detected

August 2016

3.7

Not detected

September 2016

3.7

Not detected

October 2016

3.7

Not detected

November 2016

3.7

Not detected

July 2017

11

Not detected

August 2017

11

Not detected

September 2017

11

Not detected

October 2017

11

Not detected

November 2017

11

Not detected

Beaverdams Creek, ON

Trend line (representation): log Concentration = -0.0012×Date + 53

Date

Concentration

Detection Status

March 2009

285

Detected

April 2009

58

Detected

May 2009

1457

Detected

June 2009

294

Detected

July 2009

136

Detected

August 2009

807

Detected

September 2009

658

Detected

October 2009

389

Detected

November 2009

57

Detected

December 2009

163

Detected

January 2010

90

Detected

February 2010

382

Detected

March 2010

1274

Detected

April 2010

2219

Detected

May 2010

239

Detected

June 2010

1249

Detected

July 2010

241

Detected

December 2010

249

Detected

January 2011

175

Detected

February 2011

6370

Detected

March 2011

1007

Detected

May 2011

794

Detected

June 2011

42

Detected

July 2011

157

Detected

August 2011

484

Detected

September 2011

1955

Detected

July 2012

382

Detected

August 2012

102

Detected

September 2012

206

Detected

October 2012

114

Detected

November 2012

863

Detected

December 2012

1179

Detected

January 2013

1571

Detected

February 2013

145

Detected

April 2013

124

Detected

May 2013

283

Detected

June 2013

69

Detected

July 2013

110

Detected

August 2013

236

Detected

September 2013

82

Detected

October 2013

100

Detected

November 2013

1889

Detected

December 2013

240

Detected

January 2014

114

Detected

February 2014

10

Detected

March 2014

7.6

Detected

April 2014

17

Detected

May 2014

20

Detected

June 2014

26

Detected

July 2014

18

Detected

October 2014

8.4

Detected

November 2014

23

Detected

December 2014

14.4

Not detected

January 2015

3.7

Not detected

February 2015

3.7

Not detected

March 2015

3.7

Not detected

April 2015

3.7

Not detected

May 2015

3.7

Not detected

June 2015

3.7

Not detected

July 2015

3.7

Not detected

August 2015

3.7

Not detected

September 2015

3.7

Not detected

October 2015

3.7

Not detected

November 2015

3.7

Not detected

December 2015

3.7

Not detected

January 2016

3.7

Not detected

February 2016

3.7

Not detected

March 2016

3.7

Not detected

April 2016

3.7

Not detected

May 2016

3.7

Not detected

June 2016

3.7

Not detected

July 2016

3.7

Not detected

October 2017

11

Not detected

January 2018

11

Not detected

Still Creek, BC

Trend line (representation): log Concentration = -0.00043×Date + 19

Date

Concentration

Detection Status

March 2009

27

Detected

April 2009

178

Detected

May 2009

170

Detected

July 2009

31

Detected

August 2009

229

Detected

September 2009

56

Detected

October 2009

29

Detected

December 2009

27

Detected

January 2010

32

Detected

February 2010

19

Detected

March 2010

20

Detected

May 2010

36

Detected

June 2010

103

Detected

July 2010

19

Detected

August 2010

23

Detected

October 2010

74

Detected

November 2010

25

Detected

July 2012

15

Detected

August 2012

21

Detected

September 2012

15

Detected

October 2012

38

Detected

December 2012

64

Detected

January 2013

73

Detected

February 2013

19

Detected

March 2013

23

Detected

April 2013

40

Detected

May 2013

82

Detected

June 2013

55

Detected

July 2013

15

Detected

August 2013

60

Detected

September 2013

48

Detected

October 2013

108

Detected

December 2013

52

Detected

January 2014

21

Detected

February 2014

16

Detected

March 2014

31

Detected

April 2014

53

Detected

June 2014

24

Detected

July 2014

9.6

Detected

October 2014

9.5

Detected

November 2014

14

Not detected

December 2014

48

Detected

January 2015

3.7

Not detected

February 2015

21

Detected

March 2015

81

Detected

May 2015

3.7

Not detected

June 2015

3.7

Not detected

July 2015

6.1

Detected

September 2015

3.7

Not detected

October 2015

3.7

Not detected

December 2015

3.7

Not detected

January 2016

3.7

Not detected

April 2016

3.7

Not detected

June 2016

62

Detected

July 2016

3.7

Not detected

August 2016

3.7

Not detected

September 2016

3.7

Not detected

October 2016

3.7

Not detected

November 2016

11

Not detected

December 2016

3.7

Not detected

February 2017

11

Not detected

March 2017

11

Not detected

April 2017

11

Not detected

June 2017

11

Not detected

July 2017

11

Not detected

August 2017

11

Not detected

September 2017

11

Not detected

November 2017

30

Detected

January 2018

38

Detected

February 2018

33

Detected

March 2018

11

Not detected

April 2018

11

Not detected

3.2 Sediment

BPA was measured in 272 surface sediment samples collected from 31 sites (nine drainage regions) across Canada between 2011 and 2018 (Figures 4 and 5). Sediment samples were collected every year, although specific sampling locations varied in each year and in some locations, sediment was only collected once. The surface sediment samples were collected in the top layer with a total depth ranging between 1 and 3 cm.  Different sites were targeted during each year of sample collection. BPA concentrations were below the detection limit (<2 µg/kg dry weight) in 68% of sediment samples. Similar to surface water, urbanized and industrialized sites generally contained higher BPA concentrations than more remote locations. For example, in the Pacific region, Still Creek station near Vancouver had median and maximum concentrations of 37 and 51 µg/kg dry weight, respectively. In the Great Lakes basin, the majority of concentrations measured were below the detection limit, except in the Detroit River (32 µg/kg dry weight) and in the Hamilton Harbour (130 µg/kg dry weight) and Toronto Harbour (57 µg/kg dry weight) regions of Lake Ontario. Relatively elevated concentrations were also observed in the St. Lawrence River downstream of Montreal (32 µg/kg dry weight) and in Lake Saint-Pierre (33 µg/kg dry weight). In the Atlantic region, three samples with relatively elevated concentrations were observed in Banook Lake near Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (27 µg/kg dry weight), the St. John River near Fredericton, New Brunswick (40 µg/kg dry weight) and the Waterford River near St. John's, Newfoundland (36 µg/kg dry weight). As discussed in the report Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Risk Management Measures for Bisphenol A (BPA) – Ecological Component (ECCC, 2020), the surface sediment layer can be representative of multiple years of data, depending on the sedimentation rate in a given water body. Therefore, even the most recent samples may contain BPA deposited prior to the implementation of risk management activities. In addition, sediment is an area with little to no oxygen and the rate of BPA degradation is slower than in water. It is important to note that BPA has been observed to migrate downward within sediment (Peng et al., 2007), which could influence concentrations observed in surface sediment.

Figure 4: BPA concentrations in surface sediment samples collected across Canada between 2011 and 2018.
Long description

BPA concentrations at surface sediment sampling locations are presented on a map of Canada. The surface sediment were collected in the top layer with a total depth ranging between 1 and 3 cm. Where more than one data point was available for a given location, the median value was plotted, which is represented by a red bar proportional to the one in the legend. The green circles represent sites where either BPA was not detected, or, if there were multiple samples, the median was below the detection level. The data shown in the figure is the same as the data on medians presented in Figure 5. The divisions on the map represent Canada's drainage regions, which are identified in Appendix A, comprising 25 of Canada's major rivers.

Figure 5: BPA concentrations in surface sediment collected from water bodies across Canada between 2011 and 2018.
Long description

BPA concentrations at each surface sediment sampling location are displayed on a graph. The surface sediment were collected in the top layer with a total depth ranging between 1 and 3 cm. For each location, the median (that is, the 50th percentile) concentration or value (if only one measurement) is shown as a black circle. The maximum concentration (red “×”) is also shown where there was more than one data point for a given location. The detection limit of 2 µg/kg dry weight (black line) is shown for comparison. The median and maximum BPA concentrations are not shown if they were below the limit of detection. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of sediment samples collected and analyzed for BPA at each location.

Data table for the graph

Region

Location

Median

Maximum

Pacific region

Frederick Lake (1)

ND

ND

Pacific region

Still Creek (3)

37

51

Pacific region

Serpentine River (1)

ND

ND

Pacific region

Mill Creek (2)

12

20

Pacific region

Osoyoos Lake (1)

ND

ND

Pacific region

Beaver Creek (1)

7.0

7.0

Ontario Region

Lake Superior (31)

ND

7.0

Ontario Region

St. Marys River (4)

ND

ND

Ontario Region

Lake Huron (4)

ND

ND

Ontario Region

St. Clair River (15)

ND

13

Ontario Region

Lake St. Clair (9)

ND

ND

Ontario Region

Detroit River (15)

7.0

32

Ontario Region

Lake Erie (45)

ND

5.0

Ontario Region

Lake Ontario (4)

5.0

10

Ontario Region

Hamilton Harbour (5)

32

130

Ontario Region

Toronto Harbour (5)

20

57

Quebec Region

Lake Saint-Louis (21)

ND

18

Quebec Region

St Lawrence River (16)

4.0

32

Quebec Region

Lake Saint-Pierre (69)

ND

33

Atlantic Region

Lake Morris (1)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

Bissett Lake (1)

2.0

2.0

Atlantic Region

Banook Lake (2)

15

27

Atlantic Region

Lake William (1)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

Fales River (1)

4.0

4.0

Atlantic Region

Zeke Brook (1)

6.0

6.0

Atlantic Region

Cornwallis River (1)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

St. John River (3)

8.5

40

Atlantic Region

Petitcodiac River (1)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

Grand Lake (1)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

Napan River (2)

ND

ND

Atlantic Region

Waterford River (2)

19

36

ND = Not detected

BPA was measured in suspended sediment in the St. Lawrence River downstream of the Montreal WWTP from June to November 2012 (Figure 6). Suspended sediment samples were collected 1 metre above the river bottom over five-week time periods. The integrated samples were collected in June, July, August, October, and November.

Upstream of the effluent outfall, average concentrations of BPA were 11.8 µg/kg dry weight. BPA concentrations increased four-fold 4 km downstream of the outfall to an average of 41.2 µg/kg dry weight. At 20 km downstream, suspended sediment samples taken from the middle of the river, where the effluent plume is expected to travel (Marcogliese et al., 2015), showed a decrease in BPA levels to an average of 18.4 µg/kg dry weight. Samples taken at 20 km downstream on the south shore, where the main flow of the river runs, had average BPA concentrations of 11.8 µg/kg dry weight, which is a slight decrease from the 13.8 µg/kg dry weight average at 13 km from the outfall. The water on the north shore of this section of the St. Lawrence River stems primarily from the Prairies River, Quebec, where several wastewater effluent discharge locations contribute to the water mass. The BPA average concentration at 20 km downstream on the north shore was 21.6 µg/kg dry weight, slightly below the average of 25.2 µg/kg dry weight on the north shore, 12 km from the outfall.

In this section of the St. Lawrence River corridor, the water velocity is high (30 cm/s) and there is not a defined sedimentation basin. The decrease in BPA concentration in suspended sediments in the effluent plume and on the south shore is due to the dilution of the suspended sediment load near the WWTP. However, the data suggest that the effects of this dilution in the water on the north shore are limited by inflow mainly from the Prairies River, where several wastewater effluent discharge locations can contribute to increasing the BPA load. Concentrations measured 20 km from the outfall on the south shore were similar to those measured upstream.

Figure 6: BPA concentrations in suspended sediment of the St. Lawrence River collected along the effluent plume from the Montreal WWTP, upstream and various distances downstream from the WWTP outfall in 2012.
Long description

BPA concentrations in suspended sediment by sampling location are displayed on a graph aligned with a map of a section of the St. Lawrence River.

Data table for the graph

Distance from outfall (Km)

Shore

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Sample 5

Average

-1

Centre

2.0

5.0

24

18

10

11.8

4

Centre

19

21

66

97

6.0

41.8

12

North

10

17

53

40

6.0

25.2

13

South

22

3.0

31

9.0

4.0

13.8

20

North

16

10

41

31

10

21.6

20

Centre

21

5.0

26

34

6.0

18.4

20

South

9.0

2.0

41

5.0

2.0

11.8

Inferences on temporal trends of BPA were obtained from three dated sediment cores collected from Lake Ontario in 2013, Lake St. Pierre in 2012, and a channel on the Boucherville Islands near Montreal in 2012 (Figure 7). The temporal profile of BPA concentrations in Lake Ontario sediments is consistent with the widespread use of BPA in the plastics industry since the early 1960s. Concentrations were relatively stable, ranging from 18 to 36 µg/kg dry weight between the 1960s and the 1990s. In the mid-1990s, BPA concentrations in the temporal profile of Lake Ontario sediments doubled to 70 µg/kg dry weight. The temporal profile of sediments on the Boucherville Islands also shows a peak BPA concentration of 10 µg/kg dry weight during this same period. The temporal profile of Lake Ontario sediments shows a gradual decrease in BPA concentrations between 1995 and 2006. This decrease could be related to water treatment in the various industries and municipalities located in the lake's watershed. This decrease is also apparent in the sediment profile of the Boucherville Islands and appears to correspond to the commissioning of the WWTP to service the municipalities on the south shore of Montreal in 1992. BPA was not detected in Lake St. Pierre until 2008, and thus time trends could not be evaluated in this core until the mid-2000s. Starting in the mid-2000s, the temporal profiles show an increase in BPA concentrations in Lake Ontario, the Boucherville Islands, and Lake St. Pierre, which differs from the time trends in surface water during this period, where BPA concentrations decreased. This increase of BPA concentrations in sediment cores could be the result of several factors including degradation of the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) to BPA in sediment (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2013). Concentrations of TBBPA may have increased in the mid-2000s through its use as a replacement for regulated flame retardants (e.g., polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in consumer products (Environment Canada and Health Canada, 2013). Similar to surface sediment samples discussed above, concentrations of BPA in sediment cores could be influenced by downward migration of BPA within the core (Peng et al., 2007).

Figure 7: Concentrations of BPA (µg/kg dry weight) in three sediment cores, collected from Lake Ontario in 2013, Lake Saint-Pierre in 2012, and the Boucherville Islands in 2012.
Long description

Time changes in BPA concentrations in sediment cores are displayed on a graph. The detection limit of 2 µg/kg (solid black line) is shown for comparison.

Data table for the graph

Year

Lake Ontario  - Sediment core BPA concentration (µg/kg dry weight)

Lake Saint-Pierre  - Sediment core BPA concentration (µg/kg dry weight)

Boucherville Islands  - Sediment core BPA concentration (µg/kg dry weight)

1967

21

No data

ND

1968

No data

No data

ND

1970

No data

No data

ND

1972

22

No data

ND

1974

32

No data

ND

1975

No data

No data

ND

1977

36

No data

ND

1979

No data

No data

ND

1980

20

No data

No data

1981

No data

No data

ND

1982

No data

No data

No data

1983

18

No data

No data

1984

No data

No data

ND

1986

26

No data

ND

1988

No data

No data

ND

1989

18

ND

ND

1990

No data

ND

No data

1991

No data

ND

ND

1992

29

ND

No data

1993

No data

No data

3

1994

70

ND

10

1995

No data

ND

No data

1996

No data

ND

ND

1997

36

ND

No data

1998

No data

No data

ND

1999

No data

ND

No data

2000

11

ND

No data

2001

No data

ND

3

2003

23

ND

9

2004

No data

ND

No data

2005

No data

ND

5

2006

3.0

4

No data

2007

No data

4

13

2008

No data

4

50

2009

8.0

5

No data

2010

No data

3

No data

2011

No data

3

No data

2012

14

No data

No data

ND = Not detected

3.3 Biota

BPA was measured in whole fish of various species collected from Hamilton Harbour (2004), lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) from Lakes Ontario (2007) and Superior (2009) and walleye (Sander vitreus) from Lake Huron by the French River in 1995. The highest BPA levels were found in gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) (median = 13.5 pg/g wet weight, maximum = 22.2 pg/g) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio) (median = 5.5 pg/g wet weight, maximum = 36.3 pg/g) from Hamilton Harbour in 2004 (Figure 8). Three WWTPs discharge into the Hamilton Harbour (one of which receives landfill leachate) and there are several landfill sites located in the Hamilton Harbour watershed. The surface water in the Hamilton Harbour also contains relatively elevated BPA concentrations. BPA was not detected in lake trout from Lake Ontario or Lake Superior and had a low detection frequency in Lake Huron. This is not surprising as the large water volume of these lakes likely dilute BPA to low concentrations, as found for surface water.

Figure 8: BPA concentrations in fish (whole samples) collected from Ontario surface water bodies between 1995 and 2009.
Long description

BPA concentrations in fish by species and location are displayed on a graph.  For each location, the median (that is, the 50th percentile) concentration is shown as a black circle and the maximum concentration is shown as a red “×”.  The detection limit of 5 pg/g wet weight is indicated as a black line. The median and maximum BPA concentrations are not shown if they were below the limit of detection. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of fish samples collected and analyzed for BPA at each location.

Data table for the graph

Location

Species

Median - BPA concentration (pg/g wet weight)

Maximum - BPA concentration (pg/g wet weight)

Hamilton Harbour

Carp (10)

5.5

36

Hamilton Harbour

Shad (5)

14

22

Hamilton Harbour

Alewife (10)

ND

ND

Hamilton Harbour

Catfish (5)

ND

ND

Hamilton Harbour

Shiner (5)

ND

ND

Hamilton Harbour

Drum (9)

ND

5.6

Lake Ontario

Trout (7)

ND

5.7

Lake Huron

Walleye (5)

ND

12

Lake Superior

Trout (10)

ND

ND

ND = Not detected

BPA was also measured in two types of bird tissue: eggs and plasma. Eggs were collected for three species, the glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens), herring gull (Larus argentatus), and tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), at seven sites in Quebec, Ontario, and three Pacific regions in 2009. Collection locations included remote areas as well as sites receiving direct inputs of treated wastewater at Hamilton Harbour and a sewage lagoon where increased BPA exposure might be expected.  BPA was not detected in any bird eggs from these sites.   

BPA in plasma was measured in chicks of the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), and double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) between 2009 and 2012. The goal of this monitoring was to determine birds’ exposure to BPA in different locations. Ten collection sites included three landfills and three WWTPs, where exposure to BPA might be expected, as well as three sites within an industrial area (Hamilton Harbour) and a reference site at a conservation area in Milton, Ontario (Figure 9). Median BPA concentrations were highest in starling plasma collected from one of the landfill sites. BPA was also detected in plasma of tree swallows feeding immediately downstream of the outflow of the three WWTPs. BPA was detected in plasma of cormorants from sites within the Hamilton Harbour industrial site but not in starlings or swallows from this area, or in swallows from the reference site in Milton.

Figure 9: BPA concentrations in plasma of chicks of European starlings (EUST), tree swallows (TRES), and double-crested cormorants (DCCO) from landfill and WWTP sites, Hamilton Harbour (an industrial area), and a conservation area (reference site) in Ontario collected between 2009 and 2012.
Long description

BPA concentrations in bird plasma by location and species are displayed on a graph. Codes are used for the landfills and WWTPs to protect the anonymity of the participating sites. For each site, the median (that is, the 50th percentile) concentration or value (if only one measurement) is shown as a black circle. The maximum concentration (red “×”) is also shown where there was more than one data point for a given location. The detection limit (0.5 ng/mL) is shown for comparison. The median and maximum BPA concentrations are not shown if they were below the limit of detection. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of plasma samples collected and analyzed for BPA at each location.

Data table for the graph

Location

Code

Species

Median  - BPA concentration (ng/ml)

Max - BPA concentration (ng/ml)

Landfill

BR (3)

European starling

ND

ND

Landfill

HL (4)

European starling

ND

ND

Landfill

SC (2)

European starling

1.9

3.4

WWTP

Q1 (15)

Tree swallow

ND

2.4

WWTP

WL (1)

Tree swallow

0.54

ND

WWTP

JV (7)

Tree swallow

ND

0.84

Hamilton Harbour

N/A

Double-crested cormorant (5)

ND

0.63

Hamilton Harbour

N/A

European Starling (2)

ND

ND

Hamilton Harbour

N/A

Tree Swallow (2)

ND

ND

Reference

Milton

Tree Swallow (1)

ND

ND

ND = Not detected

In 2014 and 2015, plasma of European starling chicks was collected at nest boxes adjacent to three fields treated with biosolids (applied one year prior) and at two field sites where no biosolids were applied (reference fields). Chicks near fields amended with biosolids one year post-application had a median BPA concentration of 0.06 ng/mL (max of 4.57 ng/mL) while the median concentration at reference fields was below the limit of detection (max of 17.51 ng/mL; Figure 10). In 2015, monitoring was also conducted at a biosolid-treated field two years post-application and at this site, chicks had a median BPA concentration of 6.19 ng/mL (max of 54.3 ng/mL). A higher median BPA concentration in plasma of European starlings near biosolids-treated fields suggests that BPA exposure may be higher in birds nesting in the vicinity of such soils.

Figure 10: BPA concentrations in plasma of European starling chicks at nests near biosolid-treated fields 1 year post-application (3 fields) and 2 years post-application (1 field) in 2014 and 2015.
Long description

BPA concentrations in bird plasma are displayed on a graph according to biosolid treatment practices at fields adjacent to bird nests. Median (that is, the 50th percentile) concentrations (black circle) and maximum concentrations (red ×) are shown for each site. The detection limit (0.01 ng/mL) is shown for comparison. The median concentration at reference fields was below the limit of detection. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of plasma samples collected and analyzed for BPA at each location.

Data table for the graph

Location

Median  - BPA concentration (ng/ml)

Max - BPA concentration (ng/ml)

Biosolid Fields, Year 1 (16)

0.060

4.6

Biosolid Field, Year 2 (9)

6.2

54

Reference Fields (50)

ND

18

ND = Not detected

3.4 Wastewater and landfills

The wastewater treatment component of the CMP Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance program provides information on the significance of wastewater effluent discharges and land application of treated biosolids as sources of BPA to the environment. Between 2009 and 2012, 25 WWTPs representing typical wastewater treatment processes in Canada were sampled in summer and winter. Some of the WWTPs monitored receive landfill leachate. Municipal systems as well as systems located on federal or aboriginal lands were included in the program. Influent BPA concentrations across all WWTPs ranged from 34 ng/L to 8,000 ng/L, with a median value of 400 ng/L. Effluent BPA concentrations ranged from 5 ng/L to 7,400 ng/L, with a median value of 150 ng/L. Removal rates of BPA during wastewater treatment ranged from 1% to 77% as medians, depending on the treatment type used. Results from wastewater solids analysis showed median BPA concentrations of 230 ng/g in primary sludge (range = 59 ng/g to 870 ng/g), 290 ng/g in waste biological sludge (range = 27 ng/g to 4,600 ng/g), and 460 ng/g in treated biosolids (range = 38 ng/g to 12,000 ng/g). These results indicate that BPA is consistently present in wastewater solids and effluents (Guerra et al., 2015). The median BPA concentration in WWTP effluent of 150 ng/L is greater than in surface water collected at sites downstream of WWTPs such as the Grand River (14 ng/L at 5 km downstream), Thames River (13 ng/L at 6 km downstream), Wascana Creek (75 ng/L at 8.5 km downstream), and Hamilton Harbour (47 ng/L within 5 km from all WWTPs).   

In order to monitor the potential release of BPA from a segment of the solid waste sector, landfill leachate was collected from a total of 13 Canadian municipal solid waste landfill sites between 2008 and 2013 (Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2013; Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2015). The landfills all receive municipal solid waste and some also receive other types of waste such as industrial, commercial and institutional waste, construction waste, and sewage sludge. Samples were collected prior to treatment at all landfill sites. Treated leachate samples were additionally obtained from four landfills that have an on-site leachate treatment system. In samples of raw leachate, BPA concentrations ranged from below the method reporting limit (10 to 20,000 ng/L) to 1,940,000 ng/L, with a median of 56,050 ng/L. BPA was detected in 93% of these samples. In samples of treated leachate, BPA concentrations ranged from below the method reporting limit (1 to 20,000 ng/L) to 299,000 ng/L, with a median of 588 ng/L. BPA was detected in 65% of these samples. The large method reporting limit range was caused by dilution of some of the samples during the analytical procedure to bring concentrations within a range that could be detected by the instruments. On-site treatment of landfill leachate resulted in an average and median BPA removal rate of 93% and 100%, respectively. For most of the monitored landfills, untreated leachate is discharged to WWTPs. Approximately 87% of the leachate generated by large landfills in Canada (greater than 40,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per year) is treated by municipal WWTPs (Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2015).  The remainder is either treated onsite prior to release (7.1%) or is released directly into the environment without treatment (5.5%) (Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2015). Additionally, leachate generated at some, particularly smaller, landfills may be released to the environment via surface water runoff or groundwater discharge. Ultimately, these data indicate that some landfill leachate could represent a source of BPA to the environment.

4. Conclusions

BPA levels measured in surface water, sediment, fish, and birds across Canada were generally higher near sources such as wastewater discharged from WWTPs (some of which receive landfill leachate), landfill sites and paper-recycling mills, and in large cities compared to other sampling sites. High concentrations of BPA were also detected in WWTP effluent and in landfill leachate. These results suggest that human activities, such as industry and consumer use of polycarbonate plastic, contribute to BPA found in the environment.

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For more information

The Chemicals Management Plan and Monitoring Program:

Risk Assessment and Management of BPA:

Health Canada's Activities:

Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines:

Appendix A. Canadian drainage regions

Figure A-1: Map of Canada with the drainage regions labeled (Statistics Canada, 2017).
Long description

Excerpt from Statistics Canada 2017: “This map outlines the boundaries of the 25 drainage regions in Canada and the 5 ocean drainage areas. These drainage regions cover all of the area within the coastal boundaries of Canada.

On this map, a black line defines provincial and international boundaries while a thicker white line defines an ocean drainage area boundary and a grey line defines the drainage region boundary. Each drainage region is identified with a unique number and colour.

Drainage regions in the Pacific Ocean drainage area are in the red colour spectrum; regions draining into the Arctic Ocean are in the orange spectrum; the single region draining into the Gulf of Mexico is yellow; regions draining into Hudson Bay are in a blue-grey palette and regions draining into the Atlantic Ocean are in the green spectrum.

The locations and names of some major cities in each province and territory are included on the map. Land areas outside of Canada are coloured light grey. Water is pale blue and major bodies, like oceans and bays, are named.”

Sources: Statistics Canada, Environment, Energy and Transportation Statistics Division in 2009, with special tabulation from Pearse PH, Bertrand F, MacLaren JW. 1985. Currents of change: Final report, Inquiry on Federal Water Policy. Ottawa (ON): Environment Canada.

Data table for the map

Ocean drainage areas and drainage regions

Code

Pacific Ocean

-

Pacific Coastal

1

Fraser–Lower Mainland

2

Okanagan–Similkameen

3

Columbia

4

Yukon

5

Arctic Ocean

-

Peace–Athabasca

6

Lower Mackenzie

7

Arctic Coast–Islands

8

Gulf of Mexico

-

Missouri

9

Hudson Bay

-

North Saskatchewan

10

South Saskatchewan

11

Assiniboine–Red

12

Winnipeg

13

Lower Saskatchewan–Nelson

14

Churchill

15

Keewatin–Southern Baffin Island

16

Northern Ontario

17

Northern Quebec

18

Atlantic Ocean

-

Great Lakes

19

Ottawa

20

St. Lawrence

21

North Shore–Gaspé

22

Saint John–St. Croix

23

Maritime Coastal

24

Newfoundland–Labrador

25

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