Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions

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V. Regulatory Framework for Improvement of Indoor Air Quality

Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors, where they are exposed to various pollutants. Some indoor air pollutants infiltrate from outdoors, while others come from indoor sources, such as mould from excessive moisture and inadequate ventilation; carbon monoxide from gas and oil appliances that are not properly maintained or vented to the outside; ozone emitted by ozone generators sold as air cleaners; and volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, emitted by building materials.

In addition to human-made sources, some key indoor air pollutants occur naturally. For example, radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas which can accumulate to a dangerous level when present in a confined space such as a home basement. In Canada, radon is responsible for 1900 lung cancer deaths a year, second only to tobacco smoke as a cause of lung cancer. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air among the top five environmental risks to public health. Poor indoor air quality has been shown to cause or exacerbate a wide range of health effects, including allergies, asthma, lung cancer, respiratory infections, and ear, nose, and throat irritation.

Historically, indoor air pollution has been addressed mainly as an occupational issue, with a limited amount of guidance provided for residences and public buildings. Health Canada's main roles have been to establish residential indoor air quality guidelines, used mainly by provincial public health authorities, as well as to provide limited advice to the public on how to protect their health from indoor air pollution.

The government will develop measures for improving indoor air quality. In consultation with provincial and territorial health departments as well as key stakeholders, the Minister of Health will develop a priority list of indoor contaminants that are national in scope and require government action. To guide decisions on the development of guidelines and product regulations, the federal government will collect information on these contaminants under the provisions of CEPA 1999.

Consultation on the list of priority contaminants will begin in the spring of 2007, with information gathering and the development of regulations to follow.