Fine particulate matter emissions

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Particulate matter (PM) is directly emitted into the air in solid or liquid form. It is also formed in the air from precursor substances such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) refers to particulate matter with a size of less than 2.5 microns. It is one of the major components of smog. When inhaled deeply into the lungs, even small amounts of PM2.5 can cause serious health problems. It can also damage vegetation and structures, contribute to haze and reduce visibility.

Key results

  • In 2015, PM2.5 emissions were 1621 kilotonnes (kt). This is 18% lower than in 1990.
  • Emissions from dust and fires (for example, road dust and prescribed forest burning) accounted for an increasing proportion of PM2.5. Emissions from these sources reached 62% (1010 kt) of total national emissions.

Total fine particulate matter emissions by source, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Stacked column chart showing fine particulate matter emissions by source. Long description below.

Long description

The stacked column chart shows fine particulate matter emissions in Canada by source (dust and fires, agriculture [livestock, crop production and fertilizer], home firewood burning, and other sources) for the years 1990 to 2015. The emissions are reported in kilotonnes.

Data for this chart
Total fine particulate matter emissions by source, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearDust and fires (emissions in kilotonnes)Agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer) (emissions in kilotonnes)Home firewood burning (emissions in kilotonnes)Other sources (emissions in kilotonnes)Total national emissions (emissions in kilotonnes)
1990673.0678.0262.1353.61966.7
1991666.0670.9258.4328.61923.8
1992640.0656.2247.0320.01863.2
1993651.4641.9258.5317.21869.0
1994706.9627.4263.1316.81914.1
1995649.9612.8251.2314.91828.9
1996665.2598.5248.0308.01819.7
1997729.1584.5234.8306.41854.8
1998604.7570.8247.0295.01717.5
1999637.4557.1232.9291.11718.5
2000624.8543.6223.2289.51681.1
2001641.9530.2204.2259.81636.1
2002620.0510.1219.2234.91584.2
2003650.2490.0186.4228.91555.5
2004643.4469.4179.2219.71511.6
2005662.2449.4166.8216.01494.5
2006715.5429.2158.8190.21493.8
2007790.0415.8158.5184.91549.3
2008875.0402.4160.3177.41615.2
2009774.5389.3154.4163.11481.3
2010861.4376.5163.8164.11565.7
2011911.6363.2164.8154.01593.5
20121006.2350.7165.8146.81669.4
20131001.9338.5164.7144.71649.9
20141011.3327.7163.6143.11645.6
20151009.8318.3162.5130.31620.9
Total fine particulate matter emissions from other sources, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearOre and mineral industries (emissions in kilotonnes)Transportation (road, rail, air and marine) (emissions in kilotonnes)Manufacturing (emissions in kilotonnes)Off-road vehicles and mobile equipment (emissions in kilotonnes)Miscellaneous sources (emissions in kilotonnes)Oil and gas (emissions in kilotonnes)Building heating and energy generation (emissions in kilotonnes)Electric utilities (emissions in kilotonnes)Incineration and wastes (emissions in kilotonnes)Paints and solvents (emissions in kilotonnes)
199059.542.1116.050.814.812.44.648.35.0<0.1
199156.138.5104.751.313.012.14.643.35.0<0.1
199253.538.1101.651.213.012.34.740.55.1<0.1
199353.339.6102.453.413.312.94.932.35.2<0.1
199455.042.4102.754.313.713.64.924.75.5<0.1
199555.340.6103.656.314.214.24.720.65.4<0.1
199656.539.195.559.514.214.25.118.85.1<0.1
199758.241.387.860.014.614.64.920.05.0<0.1
199854.942.983.253.815.316.04.519.64.8<0.1
199953.342.683.251.715.913.84.721.34.6<0.1
200055.643.478.550.216.313.45.222.54.4<0.1
200152.142.665.141.916.513.45.018.74.4<0.1
200242.641.456.340.116.713.85.214.34.4<0.1
200341.441.455.440.817.013.15.510.63.9<0.1
200440.541.649.840.317.512.15.39.03.8<0.1
200545.543.844.035.017.812.45.28.73.7<0.1
200643.942.028.032.117.912.44.86.13.1<0.1
200741.640.226.831.817.911.45.17.03.1<0.1
200840.139.023.930.818.310.35.16.93.0<0.1
200934.435.621.829.018.49.85.06.13.1<0.1
201037.535.419.930.418.19.44.75.73.1<0.1
201135.334.220.924.617.39.65.04.32.9<0.1
201234.633.120.321.317.49.64.53.22.7<0.1
201333.732.320.720.017.210.24.83.22.7<0.1
201434.031.419.018.916.611.55.14.02.7<0.1
201533.021.918.518.516.510.45.13.82.7<0.1

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only. The category "other sources" includes emissions from ore and mineral industries, transportation (road, rail, air and marine), manufacturing, off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, the oil and gas industry, building heating and energy generation, electric utilities, incineration and wastes, paints and solvents, and other miscellaneous sources. Consult Table 1 in the Data sources and methods for a complete list of the air pollutant emissions sources included under each category.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

More information

In 2015, 82% of PM2.5 emissions came from open source emissions, such as dust and fires, and agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer). In general, these emissions are spread over large geographical areas, are highly dependent on weather conditions (for example, wind, rain) and are located outside of urban areas.

The remaining 18% of PM2.5 emissions in 2015 came from home firewood burning (163 kt) and other sources (130 kt) including industry.Footnote [1] Specifically, other sources include emissions from:

  • ore and mineral industries, representing 25% (33 kt) of the emissions from other sources in 2015
  • transportation (road, rail, air and marine), representing 17% (22 kt)
  • manufacturing (19 kt) and off-road vehicles and mobile equipment (18 kt), both representing 14% of emissions
  • miscellaneous sources, such as emissions from cigarette smoking, representing 13% (17 kt)
  • the oil and gas industry, representing 8% (10 kt)
  • the remaining 9% (12 kt) of emissions coming from building heating and energy generation, electric utilities, incineration and wastes, and the use of paints and solvents

These other sources can have more of an impact on the population because they are generally emitted in populated areas.

Between 1990 and 2015, emissions of PM2.5 from dust and fires (specifically dust) increased by
50% (337 kt), while emissions from all the remaining sources declined.

The decreases in PM2.5 emissions between 1990 and 2015 are mainly attributable to emission reductions from agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer) and home firewood burning. These reductions outweigh the increase in emissions from dust and fires over the period. The adoption of conservation tillage practices in crop production and the use of new fireplace inserts, furnaces and stoves in homes that control emissions and burn more efficiently were the main drivers leading to the reductions.

Source emissions changes between 1990 and 2015
SourcePM2.5 (change in kilotonnes from 1990 to 2015)PM2.5 (percentage change from 1990 to 2015)
Dust and fires336.850
Miscellaneous1.711
Building heating and energy generation0.410
Paints and solvents0.009234
Oil and gas industry-2.0-16
Incineration and waste-2.3-46
Transportation (road, rail, air, marine)-20.2-48
Ore and mineral industries-26.5-45
Off-road vehicles-32.4-64
Electric utilities-44.5-92
Manufacturing-97.5-84
Home firewood burning-99.6-38
Agriculture-359.7-53
Total-345.8-18

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Fine particulate matter emissions by province and territory

Key results

  • In 2015, Alberta emitted the most PM2.5. The province represented 36% (577 kt) of Canadian emissions.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, all provinces, with the exception of Alberta, decreased their emissions. The largest decrease was observed in Saskatchewan with a 34% reduction (164 kt).

Fine particulate matter emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990 and 2015

Column chart showing fine particulate matter emissions by province and territory. Long description below.

Long description

The column chart shows 1990 and 2015 fine particulate matter emissions in Canada by province and territory. The emissions are reported in kilotonnes.

Data for this chart
Fine particulate matter emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990 and 2015
Province or territory1990 (emissions in kilotonnes)2015 (emissions in kilotonnes)1990, excluding open sourcesFootnote [A] (emissions in kilotonnes)2015, excluding open sourcesFootnote [A] (emissions in kilotonnes)
Newfoundland and Labrador28.519.819.48.8
Prince Edward Island7.35.93.52.5
Nova Scotia40.327.725.113.9
New Brunswick40.025.023.610.1
Quebec249.2210.6159.097.2
Ontario323.0274.1155.375.4
Manitoba104.981.617.48.1
Saskatchewan479.3314.925.411.5
Alberta509.8576.577.132.6
British Columbia177.180.9107.731.4
Yukon3.20.70.40.1
Northwest Territories and Nunavut4.13.21.61.1

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only. 
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

More information

Dust and fires (for example, road dust and prescribed forest burning) were the largest sources of PM2.5 emissions in Alberta, the highest emitting province in 2015, accounting for 79% (455 kt) of total emissions in 2015 in this province.

Saskatchewan ranked second in 2015, with 19% (315 kt) of national PM2.5 emissions. Agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer) was the largest source, with dust and fires being the second-largest source of PM2.5.

Ontario ranked third, with 17% (274 kt), and Quebec ranked fourth with 13% (211 kt). For both provinces, dust and fires were the largest sources of emissions, with home firewood burning (for example, woodstoves and fireplaces) being the second-largest source.

The increase in emissions in Alberta between 1990 and 2015 can be attributed to growth in construction operations for the oil and gas industries.

Removing emissions from dust and fires and agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer) provides a different breakdown of PM2.5 emissions in each province and territory. With these emissions removed, Quebec becomes the largest emitting province of PM2.5 in 2015, representing 33% (97 kt) of total emissions (293 kt). Ontario ranks second with 26% (75 kt) of emissions. Alberta and British Columbia both rank third, each representing 11% (33 kt and 31 kt, respectively) of emissions. Between 1990 and 2015, all of the provinces and territories experienced emissions reductions between 84% (Yukon) and 28% (Prince Edward Island).

Particulate matter emissions from facilities

Environment and Climate Change Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory provides detailed information on air pollutant emissions from industrial and commercial facilities. The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program provides access to this information through an online interactive map.

With the CESI interactive map, you can zoom in to local areas and obtain details on total particulate matter (TPM), respirable particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions specific to reporting facilities.

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) National Pollutant Release Inventory Data search – facility reported data.

Black carbon emissions by sourceFootnote [2]

Black carbon is a component of PM2.5. It is emitted directly into the air from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels and biomass.

Key results

  • Emissions of black carbon were 38 kt in 2015 and represented 2.4% of PM2.5 emissions.
  • In 2015, 3 sectors accounted for 87% of national black carbon emissions:
    • home firewood burning
    • off-road vehicles and mobile equipment
    • transportation (road, rail, air and marine)

Black carbon emissions by source, Canada, 2015

Bar chart showing black carbon emissions by source. Long description below.

Long description

The bar chart shows black carbon emissions in Canada by source (home firewood burning, off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, transportation [road, rail, air and marine], oil and gas industry, other sources, and building heating and energy generation) for 2015. The emissions are reported in kilotonnes and as a percentage of national emissions.

Data for this chart
Black carbon emissions by source, Canada, 2015
Source2015 (emissions in kilotonnes)2015 (percentage of national emissions
Home firewood burning11.530.1
Off-road vehicles and mobile equipment11.429.7
Transportation (road, rail, air and marine)10.627.6
Oil and gas industry2.66.7
Other sources1.23.0
Building heating and energy generation1.12.8

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only. The chart includes emissions from the most significant sources of black carbon. "Other sources" includes emissions from ore and mineral industries, manufacturing, electric utilities and agriculture. Consult the Data sources and methods for more details.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Canada's Black Carbon Emission Inventory.

More infomation

In 2015, home firewood burning, and off-road vehicles and mobile equipment (for example, lawn and garden equipment, recreational vehicles, excavators, graders) accounted for the largest proportions of national emissions, representing approximately 30% each (11.5 kt and 11.4 kt, respectively). Transportation (road, rail, air and marine) was also a large contributor, representing about 28% (10.6 kt) of national emissions. The remaining 13% of emissions came from the oil and gas industry, other sources (such as ore and mineral industries) and building heating and energy generation.

For both transportation and off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, the use of diesel engines accounted for the majority of black carbon emissions. The same was true of the oil and gas industry where the use of stationary diesel engines for fuel extraction accounted for the largest share of emissions.

Canada has only recently started to report black carbon emissions from human activities and time series data are not available at this time.

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