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Targeting the Worst Pollutants

  1. Based on Ministry of Environment emissions inventory data for the year 2000.

Measuring Our Progress

How clean is B.C.’s air, and how will we know our plan is working? Two important indicators are the levels of fine particulate matter, referred to by scientists as PM2.5, and ground-level ozone. These are the outdoor air contaminants of greatest concern from the perspectives of both human and ecosystem health.

The Ministry of Environment collects PM2.5 data from approximately 50 monitoring sites operated by the ministry, industry and Metro Vancouver. The networks collect data on ground-level ozone from about 40 sites in communities across B.C. The monitors are typically placed in communities that are densely populated, or where air quality may be an issue.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together to develop Canada-wide standards for PM2.5 and ground-level ozone. B.C. has committed to meeting or beating those standards by 2010.

In 2006/07, 88 per cent of monitored communities in B.C., including those in the the Lower Fraser Valley monitored by Metro Vancouver, were meeting the standard for PM2.5 and 96 per cent were meeting the standard for ground-level ozone. The B.C. government is working to improve these standings to 100 per cent for both pollutants by 2010. Progress is tracked in the Ministry of Environment’s annual service plan report.

The following chart shows annual trends in PM2.5 concentrations at various continuous monitoring sites across B.C. between 1998 and 2006.

Annual PM2.5 Concentrations at Select Sites in B.C.
  • Sites represented in this chart were selected to reflect the range of concentrations observed in populated areas around the province.
  • In 2003 Kelowna experienced a spike in PM2.5 levels due to nearby forest fires.
  • Annual PM2.5 concentrations are compared against two benchmarks:
    • The World Health Organization's recommended guideline of 10 ug/m3
    • B.C.'s proposed air quality objective of 8 ug/m3
  • The proposed air quality objective is the best in Canada and is competitive with the most stringent criteria in use elsewhere (e.g. Australia).
  • It is expected that implementation of this Plan, including continued support for local airshed management will reduce PM2.5 emissions from a range of sources and improve local air quality.

Where Do Air Pollutants Come From?

Sources of PM2.5 vary across B.C., but the three main contributors are prescribed burning, forestry operations and residential woodstoves. Transportation also contributes, especially in more densely populated areas. The pie chart below shows the relative contributions from various sources.

B.C. Emissions of PM2.5 from Human Activities