For the last several years, Ontario’s economy has grown, and industrial emissions and pollutants have decreased. Action from Ontario, the Canadian government and U.S. government have resulted in these improvements. This demonstrates what can be achieved through effective action. If we work together - we get results.
Air pollution comes from many sources, some close by, like our cars and fireplaces, and some far away, such as power plants in the U.S. Regardless of where it originates, air pollution directly impacts our health. It’s critical our air is clean and safe. That is why the Ministry of the Environment is working on multiple fronts to protect and improve our air.
In the update below, you can read about how smog is formed and Ontario’s progress towards meeting key emissions reduction targets.
Smog, the brownish-yellow hazy cloud caused by the reaction between sunlight, heat and air pollutants, is the most visible form of air pollution. Smog is harmful to both the respiratory (lungs) and cardiovascular (heart) systems. It aggravates heart problems, asthma, and other lung problems. The two main ingredients of smog are ground-level ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM), fine particulates in the air such as dust.
O3 is a gas formed through chemical reactions that take place when nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine in air in the presence of sunlight. NOX and VOCs are called smog precursor gases.
PM consists of solid particles and liquid droplets of microscopic size. There are two kinds of particulate pollution, primary and secondary: primary particulate pollution is emitted directly to the atmosphere from a variety of sources such as road dust and exhaust from cars, while secondary particulates are formed in the atmosphere through the reaction of smog precursor gases such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), NOX, VOCs or ammonia (NH3).
The primary goal of Ontario’s smog reduction efforts is to lower emissions of four key precursor pollutants: NOX – SOX – VOCs – PM
Ontario is committed to reducing provincial emissions of NOX and VOCs by 45 per cent of 1990 emissions by 2015. As of 2007, NOX emissions were 33 per cent below and VOC emissions were 42 per cent below 1990 emissions.
Ontario has also committed to reducing SO2 emissions by 50 per cent beyond the 1985 Countdown Acid Rain program cap by 2015. Ontario met this target 8 years early. In 2007, SO2 emissions were 62 per cent below the 1985 cap.
Although we have achieved reductions in emissions and air quality improvements, much remains to be done. We have to build on our success to create a sustainable future.
This update on smog and Ontario’s progress on emissions reductions is a recent step in our ongoing efforts to provide information to Ontarians about air quality and emissions.
Click on the map below to see emissions from industrial sources in the different Ministry of the Environment regions. The emission data used in the following information comes from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) from 2007.