Releases of Cadmium to the Environment

Access PDF (1.04 MB)

In 2014, national cadmium (Cd) emissions to air from human-related activities totalled 7.6 tonnes (t), a decrease of 12% (about 1.0 t) from the 2013 level, and is 92% lower (83 t) than in 1990.

In 2014, a peak in releases of Cd to water was observed, where about 6.4 t of Cd were released to water, an increase of 128% (3.6 t) from the 2013 level and an increase of 29% (1.4 t) from 2003.

In central British Columbia, a dam securing a tailings pond from the Mount Polley mine breached on August 4, 2014, spilling mining waste into Polley Lake and surrounding waters. The 2014 spill released 3.8 t of Cd to water.

Releases of cadmium to air and water, Canada, 1990 to 2014 (air) and 2003 to 2014 (water)

line chart - see long description below

Long description

The line chart shows the amount of cadmium emitted to the air in Canada between 1990 and 2014 from human-related activities. An insert column chart shows the amount of cadmium released to water in Canada between 2003 and 2014. For air, cadmium emissions had a 92% decrease since 1990 while for water an increase of 128% was observed between 2003 and 2014. This increase in releases to water is explained by the 2014 Mount Polley mine incident in British Columbia.

Data for this chart
Releases of cadmium to air and water, Canada, 1990 to 2014 (air) and 2003 to 2014 (water)
YearCadmium
(annual national emissions to air in tonnes)
Cadmium
(annual national releases to water in tonnes)
199090.7no data
199181.7no data
199284.6no data
199320.5no data
199422.8no data
199528.8no data
199637.5no data
199746.9no data
199847.0no data
199941.2no data
200037.7no data
200168.9no data
200239.0no data
200331.24.94
200433.24.64
200535.03.40
200641.03.74
200728.93.75
200822.92.54
200921.33.21
201016.52.74
20118.72.79
20129.82.74
20138.72.79
20147.66.37

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.43 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports releases from human-related sources. The Cd releases in water indicator includes the amount of elemental Cd in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) based on the NPRI reporting criteria. As a result, the reported Cd releases to water represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory. Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Overview of Reviewed Facility-Reported Data of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) 2014.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring metal used in batteries and in electroplating to protect other metals from corrosion. It can also be emitted directly to air from human activities such as non-ferrous smelting and refining and fuel consumption for electricity or heating. Cadmium can be released directly to water from human activities such as pulp and paper production, metals processing and from wastewater treatment.Footnote [1] Exposure to Cd can be hazardous to both humans and wildlife. Inorganic Cd compounds are listed as toxicFootnote [2] according to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).

Reductions in Cd emissions to air between 1990 and 2014 are mainly due to a reduction of emissions from industrial sources, including the non-ferrous smelting and refining sector, the closing of facilities, and compliance with federal and provincial legislation and guidelines introduced over this period.

The decrease of Cd release to water is attributed to decreases in releases observed between 2003 and 2013 from wastewater treatment plants, while the peak in 2014 is due to the Mount Polley incident.

Cadmium emissions to air by source

In 2014, the highest proportion of Cd emissions to air in Canada came from non-ferrous smelting and refining, representing 60% (4.6 t) of national emissions. The source other industries had the second-highest proportion of Cd emissions, with 16% (1.2 t) of national emissions, closely followed by fuel for electricity and heating with a 14% (1.0 t) share of the national Cd emissions. The largest reduction between 1990 and 2014 was from non-ferrous smelting and refining with an emissions reduction of 74 t.

Cadmium emissions to air by source, Canada, 1990 to 2014

stacked column chart - see long description below

Long description

The stacked column chart shows the amount of cadmium emitted to air in Canada by source for the years 1990 to 2014. The sources presented are, from bottom to top of each column, non-ferrous smelting and refining, other industries, fuel for electricity and heating, iron and steel industry, transportation (road, rail, air, marine), and other sources. The non-ferrous smelting and refining industry emitted 60% of the total emissions for the year 2014. It is followed by the category other industries with 16% and fuel for electricity and heating with 14% of total emissions. The largest reduction in emissions between the years 1990 and 2014 was from non-ferrous smelting and refining with an emission reduction of 74 tonnes.

Data for this chart
Cadmium emissions to air by source, Canada, 1990 to 2014
YearNon-ferrous smelting and refining
(tonnes)
Other industries
(tonnes)
Fuel for electricity and heating
(tonnes)
Iron and steel industry
(tonnes)
Transportation (road, rail, air, marine)
(tonnes)
Other sources
(tonnes)
1990
78.3
3.6
1.0
0.1
0.3
7.3
1991
67.8
5.8
1.0
0.2
0.3
6.6
1992
69.2
7.9
1.0
0.2
0.3
5.9
1993
11.9
1.7
1.1
0.3
0.3
5.2
1994
13.0
3.5
1.1
0.3
0.3
4.6
1995
17.3
5.9
1.2
0.2
0.3
3.9
1996
24.6
8.0
1.2
0.2
0.3
3.2
1997
41.0
1.6
1.2
0.2
0.3
2.5
1998
42.2
1.5
1.0
0.1
0.3
1.8
1999
36.6
1.8
1.1
0.2
0.4
1.1
2000
34.1
1.5
1.1
0.2
0.4
0.4
2001
65.2
1.6
1.1
0.2
0.4
0.3
2002
35.8
1.1
1.2
0.2
0.4
0.3
2003
27.0
1.3
1.6
0.6
0.4
0.3
2004
29.0
1.5
1.3
0.7
0.4
0.3
2005
31.1
1.6
1.2
0.3
0.4
0.3
2006
37.3
1.6
1.1
0.3
0.4
0.3
2007
24.8
1.6
1.4
0.3
0.4
0.3
2008
19.4
1.1
1.4
0.3
0.4
0.4
2009
17.4
1.8
1.3
0.2
0.4
0.4
2010
12.7
1.6
1.3
0.3
0.4
0.3
2011
4.8
1.3
1.7
0.2
0.3
0.3
2012
6.2
1.3
1.4
0.3
0.3
0.3
2013
5.3
1.3
1.3
0.2
0.2
0.3
2014
4.6
1.2
1.0
0.3
0.2
0.3

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.63 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports releases from human-related sources. The category other sources includes home firewood burning, incineration and miscellaneous, and waste. For more details on the sources, consult the Data Source and Methods.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Releases of cadmium to water by source

In 2014, 4.1 t of Cd was released by the source category other industries, which includes the Mount Polley mine spill. This is 10 times higher than the amount reported in 2013 (0.41 t). Other industries contributed 65%of the total Cd (6.4 t) released to water in 2014. Second and third were the waste source (wastewater treatment plantsFootnote [3] mostly) and pulp, paper and paperboard industry with 15% each (0.97 t and 0.96 t respectively) of the total Cd. The largest reduction in releases between the years 2003 and 2014 was from waste with a release reduction of 2.2 t.

Releases of cadmium to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2014

stacked column chart - see long description below

Long description

The stacked column chart shows the amount of cadmium released to water in Canada by source for the years 2003 to 2014. The sources presented are, from bottom to top of each column, other industries, waste, pulp, paper and paperboard industry, non-ferrous smelting and refining, and other sources. In 2014, the other industries source contributed 65% (4.1 tonnes) of the total cadmium released to water (6.4 tonnes). Second was waste, which includes wastewater treatment plants, representing 15% (0.97 tonnes) of total cadmium closely followed by the pulp, paper and paperboard industry with 15% (0.96 tonnes). Between 2003 and 2014, waste experienced the largest reduction in releases to water (2.2 tonnes).

Data for this chart
Releases of cadmium to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2014
YearOther industries
(tonnes)
Waste
(tonnes)
Pulp, paper and paperboard industry
(tonnes)
Non-ferrous smelting and refining
(tonnes)
Other sources
(tonnes)
20030.453.191.000.250.05
20041.102.260.940.300.04
20050.701.390.920.350.05
20060.881.451.070.320.02
20070.691.111.100.820.03
20080.430.980.770.350.02
20090.611.260.710.590.04
20100.521.210.700.280.02
20110.331.360.780.310.02
20120.351.230.820.320.01
20130.420.901.100.350.01
20144.120.970.960.320.01

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.68 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports releases from human-related sources. The indicator includes the amount of elemental Cd in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the NPRI based on the NPRI reporting criteria. As a result, the reported Cd releases to water represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Other sources include fuel for electricity and heating and transportation (road, rail, air, marine). Other industries also include iron and steel industry, oil and gas industry, and cement and concrete industry. For more details on the sources, consult the Data Source and Methods.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Overview of Reviewed Facility-Reported Data of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) 2014.

Cadmium emissions to air by province and territory

Ontario had the highest Cd emissions level in 2014, representing 29% (2.2 t) of national emissions (7.6 t). Ontario's emissions mainly came from the non-ferrous smelting and refining, and mining industry. Quebec and Manitoba, with the second- and third-highest emission levels, accounted for 19% (1.5 t) of total national emissions. Non-ferrous smelting and refining was the most important source in both provinces. In Quebec, metal fabrication industry and the iron and steel industry were also important sources. 

Cadmium emissions to air by province and territory, Canada, 2014[A]

bar chart - see long description below

Long description

The bar chart shows the amount of cadmium emitted to air for provinces and territories that emitted more than 0.1 tonnes of cadmium in 2014. Ontario, with 29% of the emissions, was the highest emitting provinces of cadmium to air. Quebec and Manitoba followed with 19% each of the cadmium emissions.

Data for this chart
Cadmium emissions to air by province and territory, Canada, 2014
Province or territoryCadmium emissions
(tonnes)
Percentage of national emissions
Ontario2.2429.4
Quebec1.4819.5
Manitoba1.4619.2
New Brunswick1.3818.1
Alberta0.445.8
British Columbia0.303.9
Newfoundland and Labrador0.131.7
Saskatchewan0.091.2
Nova Scotia0.071.0
Prince Edward Island0.010.1
Northwest Territories< 0.010.1
Nunavut< 0.01< 0.1
Yukon< 0.01< 0.1
Canada7.62100

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 848 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports releases from human-related sources.
[A] Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon are not shown in the chart due to their low emissions (≤ 0.1 t).
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Releases of cadmium to water by province and territory

In 2014, British Columbia facilities accounted for about 73% of the total Cd releases to water in Canada. This high share is explained by the Mount Polley mine incident. Ontario and Quebec facilities contributed 0.6 t and 0.5 t respectively of the total Cd releases to water, mainly from wastewater treatment plantsFootnote [3] and pulp, paper and paperboard industry. In 2013, British Columbia contributed less than 30% of total releases with Ontario accounting for more than 19%.

Releases of cadmium to water by province and territory, Canada, 2013 and 2014[A]

bar chart - see long description below

Long description

The bar chart shows the amount of cadmium released to water for provinces and territories that released more than 0.05 tonnes of cadmium in 2014, with 2013 releases for comparison. In 2014, British Columbia contributed 73% of the total cadmium released to water. Ontario and Quebec followed contributing 9% and 8% of the cadmium released to water respectively.

Data for this chart
Releases of cadmium to water by province and territory, Canada, 2013 and 2014
Province or territory2013
cadmium releases
(tonnes)
2013
percentage of national releases
2014
cadmium releases
(tonnes)
2014
percentage of national releases
British Columbia0.8329.74.6673.2
Ontario0.5419.20.599.2
Quebec0.5218.50.528.2
Alberta0.3412.20.335.2
New Brunswick0.4315.40.162.5
Manitoba0.031.20.050.7
Prince Edward Island0.010.50.040.7
Saskatchewan0.020.70.010.1
Newfoundland and Labrador0.072.40.010.1
Nova Scotia<0.010.10.010.1
Northwest Territories< 0.01<0.1< 0.01< 0.1
Nunavut< 0.01<0.1< 0.01< 0.1
Canada2.791006.37100

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.46 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports releases from human-related sources. The indicator includes the amount of elemental Cd in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the NPRI based on the NPRI reporting criteria. As a result, the Cd releases represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada.
[A] Yukon did not report releases of Cd to the NPRI in 2013 and 2014. Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are not shown in the chart due to their low releases (≤ 0.05 t).
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Overview of Reviewed Facility-Reported Data of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) 2014.

Releases of cadmium from facilities

Environment and Climate Change Canada's NPRI provides detailed information on emissions and releases from industrial and commercial facilities that meet NPRI reporting criteria. 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 Cd releases to water from individual facilities.

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) National Pollutant Release Inventory Online Data Search – Facility Reported Data.

Related indicators

Other information

Access PDF (1.04 MB)

Date modified: