Download the Air Action Plan [PDF 1.08MB]

Targeting the Worst Pollutants

Did You Know?

Since 2001, B.C. has invested in upgrading over 150 monitoring units province-wide, covering, in combination with Metro Vancouver’s network, over 85 per cent of B.C.’s population.

Did You Know?

Fine particulate matter is known as PM2.5 because the particles are smaller than 2.5 microns. How small is that? If you laid them end to end, you would need 20 microns to match the thickness of a human hair, and one million microns to stretch one metre. Because they are so tiny, these particles stay in the air longer and travel farther than larger particles, such as those in dust. They can also travel deep into our lungs and lodge there, causing irritation and disease.

  1. Volatile organic compounds may occur naturally (e.g. forest fires), or result from human activities (e.g. vapours from gasoline and solvents).

Outdoor air pollution has a number of components that vary in intensity according to their sources. They include sulphur dioxide, a gas produced from fossil fuel combustion and natural sources such as volcanoes; volatile organic compounds1; and nitrogen oxides, produced by combustion processes such as those in engines and furnaces. Both sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can lead to acid rain. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds can also lead to production of ground-level ozone, one of the main ingredients in smog – and one of the worst offenders in terms of its impact on human and environmental health.

  • Ground-level ozone is different from the ozone that naturally occurs high in the atmosphere and helps to protect us from harmful ultraviolet rays. Also known as “bad ozone,” ground-level ozone is produced when nitrogen oxides react with volatile organic compounds.

    Health effects of ground-level ozone include airway irritation and inflammation. Repeated exposure may cause permanent lung damage. Ozone can also harm plants, reducing crop yields and making plants more susceptible to diseases.

All of the components described above can also contribute to particulate matter (PM) pollution. PM is air pollution in one of its most visible forms.

  • PM refers to airborne liquid and solid particles and occurs in two forms: primary and secondary. Primary PM is emitted directly into the atmosphere by sources such as wildfires, woodstoves, agricultural burning, transportation, manufacturing, and power generation. It also includes pollen, spores and road dust. Secondary PM is formed through chemical reactions involving the pollutants mentioned above: nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.

PM is a serious health concern, as it can cause diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer. Because PM is composed of tiny particles invisible to the human eye, it can be inhaled deeply into our lungs.

This Air Action Plan directly targets the sources of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter in three areas: transportation, industry and communities. It sets out the actions government is taking in all these areas, and highlights everyday steps you can take to help clear the air for all British Columbians.