Canadian environment ministers vote for new air quality standards
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has ratified three Canada-wide standards on air quality.
The Federal Government of Canada wanted provincial and territorial environment ministers to ratify the standards which will reduce levels of benzene, mercury, fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone and include tighter timelines, clear reporting and accountability.
An accelerated schedule for the reduction of ground-level ozone was negotiated, with a target of 65 parts per billion for all of Canada by 2010 or earlier. This is five years earlier than the target proposed at the last Council meeting in Kananaskis in November 1999.
The provinces and territories also supported the federal government’s negotiations with the US to develop an ozone annex to the Canada-US Air Quality Agreement. Canada’s federal Environment Minister, David Anderson said an agreement will be signed by the end of the year.
The ratification of the standards represents a significant advance for Canada’s Clean Air Strategy, announced on May 19.
The Canadian Government estimates that the new particulate matter and ozone standards will prevent 1,200 premature deaths and a much larger number of cases of cardio-respiratory disorders, reduce asthma episodes and other breathing disorders. “However,” said Anderson, “we all recognise that there is no lower threshold for the adverse effects of particulate matter and ozone and I encourage all governments to push ambient levels even further down to avoid additional health implications.”
The Council accepted additional Canada-wide standards, in principle, to reduce emissions of: dioxin and furans from waste incineration and the pulp and paper sector; mercury in fluorescent lamps and dental amalgam wastes. A further standard for the clean-up of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil was also accepted in principle. These standards will be discussed at the next Council meeting.
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