Ambient Levels of Fine Particulate Matter

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Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is composed of minute solid particles and tiny liquid droplets that remain suspended in air. It is emitted directly to air from cars, trucks, home firewood-burning, industry, forest fires and waste burning. It can also form in air as a result of reactions involving pollutants such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. Along with ground-level ozone, PM2.5 is one of the two major components of smog. When inhaled deeply into the lungs, even small amounts of PM2.5 can cause serious health problems (e.g., cardiovascular and respiratory diseases).Footnote [1] Fine particulate matter can damage vegetation and structures, contribute to haze, and reduce visibility.

There are two national PM2.5 indicators, which are aligned with the 2015 Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (the Standards).Footnote [2]

  1. An annual average concentration indicator that is based on the annual average of the daily 24-hour average concentrations for PM2.5 is used to capture prolonged or repeated exposures over longer periods or chronic exposure.
  2. An annual peak 24-hour indicator that is based on the 98th percentile of the daily 24-hour average concentrations for PM2.5 is used to capture immediate or acute short-term exposures.

National ambient levels of fine particulate matter

In 2014, the national annual average concentration of PM2.5 was 7.7 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), or 4% higher than in 2013. The annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentration of PM2.5 in 2014 was 22.4 µg/m3, or 12% higher than in 2013.

Between 2000 and 2014, both indicators were below the 2015 Standards and no significant trend was found. Some of the factors that may have contributed to the concentration changes include variations in weather conditions that influence PM2.5 formation, dispersion, regional transport and variation in transboundary pollution from the United States, and the progressive introduction of monitoring equipmentFootnote [3] based on newer technologies.

Fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014

Line chart of national annual average and peak concentrations of fine particulate matter - Long description below

Long description

The line chart shows the national annual average and peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentrations of fine particulate matter from 2000 to 2014. It also shows two 2015 Canadian Air Ambient Quality Standards: the 24-hour standard (28.0 micrograms per cubic metre) for peak and the annual standard (10.0 micrograms per cubic metre) for the average. Between 2000 and 2014, both indicators were below the 2015 Standards, and no significant trend was detected.

Data for this chart 
Fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014
YearAnnual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)
20006.719.6
20016.723.1
20027.326.3
20037.325.9
20046.523.7
20057.025.9
20066.320.5
20076.121.6
20086.220.0
20095.917.9
20107.125.6
20116.820.6
20126.519.3
20137.420.0
20147.722.4
2015 standard10.028.0
Annual trendNo trendNo trend

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.83 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The national annual average fine particulate matter concentration indicator is based on annual average concentrations recorded at 69 monitoring stations across Canada. The national annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour fine particulate matter indicator is based on the average of the 98th percentile of the daily 24-hour average concentrations recorded at 73 monitoring stations across Canada. The horizontal dashed lines represent the value of the 2015 Canadian Air Ambient Quality Standards. The Canadian Air Ambient Quality Standards are shown for indicative purposes only and not for evaluation of the achievement status of the standards. New fine particulate matter monitoring equipment was progressively introduced across Canada to replace older monitoring equipment from the mid-2000's to 2013. These new instruments measure a portion (semi-volatile) of the fine particulate matter mass not captured by the older instruments. Due to the differences between the new and the old monitoring equipment, concentrations measured with the new monitors may not be directly comparable with measurements from years in which older instruments were used.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) National Air Pollution Surveillance Program.

Regional ambient levels of fine particulate matter

Annual average concentration

In 2014, average PM2.5 concentrations for all regions were below the 2015 Standard. The region with the highest concentration of PM2.5 was southern Ontario with 8.3 µg/m3, while Atlantic Canada had the lowest concentration at 6.0 µg/m3. In southern Quebec, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 in 2014 was 19% lower than in 2013, while all other regions experienced levels between 4% to 24% higher than in 2013.

Since 2000, annual average PM2.5 concentrations have consistently remained below the 2015 Standard across all regions of Canada. An exception occurred in 2011, when the concentration was above the standard in the southern Quebec region. Increasing concentration trends were detected for Atlantic Canada (0.10 µg/m3 per year) and the Prairies and northern Ontario (0.18 µg/m3 per year) regions. A decreasing trend of 0.20 µg/m3 per year was found for southern Ontario. No trends were detected for southern Quebec and British Columbia.

Regional average fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014

Line chart of annual regional average concentrations of fine particulate matter - Long description below

Long description

The line chart shows the annual average concentrations of fine particulate matter from 2000 to 2014 for five regions in Canada: Atlantic Canada, southern Quebec, southern Ontario, Prairies and northern Ontario, and British Columbia. It also shows the 2015 Canadian Air Ambient Quality Standard for the annual average concentrations (10.0 micrograms per cubic metre). Almost all fine particulate matter concentrations were below the 2015 Standard for all regions in Canada. Fine particulate matter concentrations were only above the 2015 Standard in 2011 in southern Quebec. Increasing trends were detected for the Atlantic Canada and the Prairies and northern Ontario regions while a decreasing trend was found for southern Ontario. No trends were detected for southern Quebec and British Columbia.

Data for this chart
Regional average fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014
YearAtlantic Canada annual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Southern Quebec annual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Southern Ontario annual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Prairies and northern Ontario annual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)British Columbia annual average concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)
20004.67.28.54.56.3
20015.08.68.44.85.9
20024.89.78.55.86.6
20035.09.88.15.56.8
20044.28.57.44.76.4
20054.59.68.64.45.8
20064.47.87.14.95.8
20074.37.77.24.55.2
20084.89.76.54.75.3
20095.810.05.44.85.4
20105.29.95.88.66.4
20116.110.16.08.75.1
20125.09.75.97.25.4
20135.710.08.06.95.9
20146.08.18.37.47.3
2015 standard10.010.010.010.010.0
Annual trend0.10No trend-0.200.18No trend

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.17 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The annual average fine particulate matter concentration indicator is based on annual average concentrations recorded at 6 monitoring stations in Atlantic Canada, 10 in southern Quebec, 25 in southern Ontario, 14 in the Prairies and northern Ontario and 14 in British Columbia. The horizontal dashed line represents the value of the annual standard of the 2015 Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard is shown for indicative purposes only and not for evaluation of the achievement status of the standard. New fine particulate matter monitoring equipment was progressively introduced across Canada to replace older monitoring equipment from the mid-2000's to 2013. These new instruments measure a portion (semi-volatile) of the fine particulate matter mass not captured by the older instruments. Due to of the differences between the new and the old monitoring equipment, concentrations measured with the new monitors may not be directly comparable with measurements from years in which older instruments were used.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) National Air Pollution Surveillance Program.

Annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentration

In 2014, the annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentrations of PM2.5Footnote [3] in each region were below the 2015 Standard. The highest concentration was found in the Prairies and northern Ontario region at 25.6 µg/m3, or 22% higher than in 2013. This was followed closely by British ColumbiaFootnote [4] with 24.8 µg/m3, or 53% higher than in 2013. Atlantic Canada had the lowest annual peak concentration of PM2.5 with 13.8 µg/m3 in 2014, 16% lower than in 2013.

Since 2000, all annual peak PM2.5 concentrations for Atlantic Canada, the Prairies and northern Ontario region and British Columbia were below the 2015 Standard, except for British Columbia in 2010 and the Prairies and northern Ontario region in 2011. For these two exceptions, the concentrations were above the standard largely due to forest fire activity. In southern Quebec, the concentrations were below the 2015 Standard for 53% of the reported years, including the most recent year, 2014. In southern Ontario,Footnote [5] the concentrations fell below the standard in 2006 and have remained below it ever since.

No trends were detected for Atlantic Canada, southern Quebec and British Columbia. A decreasing trend of 0.95 µg/m3 per year was found in southern Ontario, while an increasing trend was detected in the Prairies and northern Ontario region (0.63 µg/m3 per year).

Regional peak fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014

Line chart shows regional peak concentrations of fine particulate matter - Long description below

Long description

The line chart shows peak (98th percentile) 24-hour concentrations of fine particulate matter from 2000 to 2014 for five regions in Canada: Atlantic Canada, southern Quebec, southern Ontario, Prairies and northern Ontario, and British Columbia. It also shows the 2015 Canadian Air Ambient Quality Standards for the 24-hour standard (28.0 micrograms per cubic metre) for peak concentrations. All fine particulate matter concentrations for Atlantic Canada, the Prairies and northern Ontario region and British Columbia were below the 2015 Standard, except for British Columbia in 2010 and the Prairies and northern Ontario region in 2011. In southern Quebec the fine particulate matter concentrations were below the standard for 53% of the reported years, including the most recent year. In southern Ontario, the annual peak concentration fell below the standard in 2006 and have remained below. Between 2000 and 2014, no trends were detected for Atlantic Canada, southern Quebec and British Columbia. A decreasing trend was detected in southern Ontario and an increasing trend was detected in the Prairies and northern Ontario region.

Data for this chart
Regional peak fine particulate matter concentrations, Canada, 2000 to 2014
YearAtlantic Canada annual peak (98th percentile) concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Southern Quebec annual peak (98th percentile) concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Southern Ontario annual peak (98th percentile) concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)Prairies and northern Ontario annual peak (98th percentile) concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)British Columbia annual peak (98th percentile) concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)
200013.021.325.312.817.6
200120.129.929.814.117.2
200218.935.231.918.319.9
200316.037.328.417.424.5
200413.827.430.516.419.5
200515.639.533.413.317.1
200614.823.923.715.718.0
200716.524.327.713.516.9
200815.028.921.414.416.4
200916.229.315.114.018.5
201015.229.121.227.333.9
201117.625.818.330.714.8
201213.127.817.320.617.9
201316.525.420.321.016.2
201413.821.322.025.624.8
2015 standard28.028.028.028.028.0
Annual trendNo trendNo trend-0.950.63No trend

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.37 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The annual peak (98th percentile) 24-hour fine particulate matter indicator is based on the average of the 98th percentile of the daily 24-hour average concentrations recorded at 6 monitoring stations in Atlantic Canada, 12 in southern Quebec, 27 in southern Ontario, 14 in the Prairies and northern Ontario and 14 in British Columbia. The horizontal dashed line represents the value of the 24 hour standard of the 2015 Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard is shown for indicative purposes only and not for evaluation of the achievement status of the standard. New fine particulate matter monitoring equipment was progressively introduced across Canada to replace older monitoring equipment from the mid-2000's to 2013. These new instruments measure a portion (semi-volatile) of the fine particulate matter mass not captured by the older instruments. Due to the differences between the new and the old monitoring equipment, concentrations measured with the new monitors may not be directly comparable with measurements from years in which older instruments were used.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) National Air Pollution Surveillance Program.

Ambient levels of fine particulate matter at monitoring stations

The National Air Pollution Surveillance program measures air pollutant concentrations at monitoring stations across Canada. The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators provide this information through an interactive indicator map. With the interactive map, you can drill down to the average PM2.5 concentrations and peak PM2.5 concentrations at specific monitoring stations.

Related indicators

Other information

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