Toxic substances list: vanadium pentoxide

Although vanadium pentoxide is used in the manufacturing of metal alloys and sulphuric acid, Canadian data shows that it is mainly released as a part of particulate matter generated by the combustion of certain fossil fuels (e.g., heavy oil, coal). This type of combustion mainly occurs at industrial facilities such as coal-fired and oil-fired power generation plants, petroleum refineries, pulp and paper mills, and cement plants.  Canadians could be exposed to low levels of vanadium pentoxide by inhaling air containing this particulate matter. Exposure to vanadium pentoxide may also occur from its natural presence in food and soil.

On September 18, 2010, the Ministers of the Environment and of Health published, in Part I of the Canada Gazette, their final decision on the screening assessment of vanadium pentoxide. It concluded that vanadium pentoxide may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health. Based on the conclusions of the assessment, it is recommended that vanadium pentoxide be added to the list of toxic substances. 

Summary of risk management actions

Along with the final screening assessment, a Risk Management Approach document was published, to explain how risks associated with vanadium pentoxide would be managed. The risk management actions identified in this document sought to use the most efficient approach to manage the risks posed by the substance, including consideration of existing regulatory and voluntary initiatives already underway that would contribute to the reduction of vanadium pentoxide.  Given that it is released as part of particulate matter, the document explained that reducing emissions of particulate matter from combustion of certain fossil fuels will in turn reduce emissions of vanadium pentoxide.

Voluntary actions by industry - such as operational changes and fuel switching - have already resulted in decreased emissions. The screening assessment referenced data from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) which indicated that in 2006 there were 156 t of vanadium and its compounds released to air.  As of 2010, that number has been reduced to 53 t, and anticipated voluntary measures may result in further reductions.

In addition, it is expected that emissions of vanadium pentoxide will be further reduced through regulatory and other initiatives that are already underway to reduce particulate matter. These include:

  • The Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations
    • The government published the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II on Septembre 12, 2012.
    • The Regulations set a stringent performance standard for new coal-fired electricity generation units and those that have reached the end of their useful life. The implementation will cause a permanent shift to lower- or non-emitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas, renewable energy, or fossil fuel fired power with carbon capture and storage (CCS). 
    • The performance standard of the Regulations will come into effect on July 1, 2015. Regulated entities will be subject to enforcement and compliance requirements and penalties as specified under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).
    • As a result of the implementation of the Regulations, vanadium pentoxide releases from electricity sector are expected to decline significantly due to coal-fired electricity power plants closure.
  • The new Air Quality Management System  (AQMS)
    • This is a collaborative air management approach developed with provinces/territories and stakeholders to reduce air pollution in Canada and better protect human health and the environment.  The AQMS will include new, more stringent Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS), regional and local air quality management, and industrial emissions requirements. Implementation of the system will begin in 2013.
    • New CAAQS for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) will be established as objectives under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999. 
    • The industrial emission requirements for a number of sectors will include limits on the release of particulate matter.
  • Other Measures
    • The Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions under CEPA 1999 are being applied to vanadium pentoxide. This will require that any proposed new manufacture, use or import be subject to further assessment, and will determine if the new activity requires further risk management consideration.
    • The Government of Canada has assessed vanadium pentoxide in the event that it were to enter the environment as a result of an environmental emergency and intends to propose adding vanadium pentoxide to the Environmental Emergency Regulations of CEPA 1999, so that emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery requirements are put in place.
    • Environment Canada will review and revise risk management controls for vanadium pentoxide, if required, as more information becomes available.

For more information on this substance, please visit the Chemical Substances website.

CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) registry number: 1314-62-1

Risk Management Instrument(s)

Contact

Email address: GR-RM@ec.gc.ca
Fax number: (819) 994-0007
Chemicals Management Division
Environment Canada
Fontaine Building
200 Sacré Coeur Blvd.
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3

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