Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines (FEQGs)

Related information

What are FEQGs?

Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines (FEQGs) are recommended chemical thresholds to support federal initiatives. FEQGs set a concentration so that if a given chemical is at or below the FEQG threshold, there is low likelihood of direct adverse effects from the chemical on aquatic life exposed via the water or sediment, or where chemicals may bioaccumulate, in wildlife (birds and mammals) that consume aquatic life.

FEQGs for soil and groundwater are chemical remediation values used to assess and help manage in-place contaminants at contaminated sites. FEQGs do not generally address cumulative exposures or additive effects with other chemicals. As a result, more stringent targets may be useful for certain substances, for example in the risk management phase. FEQGs are based on the toxicological effects, that is, the hazard of specific chemical substances or groups of substances.

The use of FEQGs is voluntary unless prescribed by regulation or binding agreements. Though they may be applied as intermediate values in calculations, FEQGs are neither effluent limits, nor are they "never-to-be-exceeded" values.

Why are FEQGs developed?

The requirement to develop environmental quality guidelines comes from legislation, specifically section 54 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, (CEPA 1999). The Act states that for the purpose of preserving the quality of the environment, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change shall issue "environmental quality guidelines specifying recommendations in quantitative or qualitative terms to support and maintain particular uses of the environment".

FEQGs may be used directly as evaluation tools in environmental monitoring to assess whether ambient concentrations of pollutants may pose risks to aquatic or terrestrial life. In addition, they may also be used as risk management tools and performance measures. As well, they provide a science-based starting point to derive site-specific effluent limits and risk management targets.

How do FEQGs differ from Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines?

The Minister is required under section 54 of CEPA 1999 to issue environmental quality guidelines. In the past, these commitments were, in essence, met solely by Environment and Climate Change Canada's cooperative work with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) representing federal, provincial and territorial interest by developing Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines.

Currently, under the Chemicals Management Plan, there is an additional need to develop FEQGs to support federal environmental quality monitoring, risk assessment and risk management activities on substances for which CCME guidelines do not yet exist or are not reasonably expected to be updated in the near future.

When are FEQGs developed?

FEQGs may be developed at different times throughout the risk assessment and risk management cycle. For chemicals that are undergoing or have already undergone a regulatory ecological assessment under CEPA 1999, FEQGs are generally based on the same effects data considered in the ecological assessment.

FEQGs may also be developed to provide stakeholders with chemical thresholds or targets for the management of chemical substances for which a regulatory ecological assessment under CEPA 1999 may or may not be developed.

How are FEQGs developed?

FEQGs are developed using accepted effects evaluation techniques. Specifically, approaches are consistent with CCME and ecological screening assessment processes. For substances for which there are a great deal of data available, a statistical approach is used that makes the best use of all the effects data. Where there are less data available, the approach uses a critical toxicity value plus an application (safety) factor to account for the greater uncertainty.

Peer and public reviews are essential to the development of FEQGs. They are either done as part of the ecological assessment, or independently. Comments provided as part of the peer and public review consultation processes are considered in the development of the final FEQGs. FEQGs published since 2017 have undergone independent public review and their summary comments are listed below.

What FEQGs have been published?

Are there substances for which FEQGs are currently under development?

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid
  • Naphthenic acids
  • Rare earth elements
  • BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene)

This listing is provided for information purposes only and is not an official set of commitments. It is not exhaustive and does not necessarily include all individual final FEQGs. In the case of a discrepancy between this listing and the official FEQGs released, the official FEQGs prevail.

How can I get more information?

Inquiries concerning FEQGs may be directed to:

  • Substances Management Information Line
    Gatineau, Quebec
    K1A 0H3
  • Telephone: 1-800-567-1999 (in Canada) or 819-938-3232
  • E-mail: substances@ec.gc.ca

Page details

Date modified: