Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards

In October, 2012, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) agreed to new Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone. The CAAQS are part of a collaborative national Air Quality Management System (AQMS), to better protect human health and the environment. Alberta’s six air zones are assessed for achievement against these values. The first assessment, based on 2011-2013 monitoring data, has been completed and is available here, along with supplementary information on the CAAQS and Alberta’s implementation of the Air Zone Management Framework.

This table illustrates the CAAQS and management thresholds for 2015. The following map shows the six air zones, which are based on the Land-use Framework Regions.

Air Management Threshold Values

Colored Map of Alberta showing land use zones

The CAAQS replace the Canada-wide Standards for Fine Particulate Matter and Ozone, which were established in June 2000 by the CCME. The Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA) developed a Particulate Matter and Ozone Management Framework and the Government of Alberta adopted this framework as Alberta's commitment to achieve Canada-wide Standard levels by the 2010 target date.

Some areas of the province have developed management plans to reduce ozone and fine particulate matter levels in response to the CASA Particulate Matter and Ozone Management Framework assessments. For more information on the CASA Particulate Matter and Ozone Management Framework and results of historical annual assessments, please visit the Particulate Matter and Ozone Management History page.

Fine Particulate Matter Defined

Fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, refers to particles in the air less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. In comparison, a human hair is about 70 micrometres in diameter. These fine particles are small enough to penetrate the lungs and can be a human health concern, depending on their composition. PM2.5 may form in the atmosphere, or be emitted by any combustion source including automobiles, industry, and wood burning. Smoke from forest fires and other types of biomass burning can also be a major source of PM2.5.

Hourly monitoring of PM2.5 began in Alberta in the early 2000s. The equipment installed at that time has since been found not to properly capture the mass of some of the substances which make up PM2.5. Newer technology has been installed which better measures the full mass of the particles. The following fact sheet provides more information on the monitoring of fine particulate matter:

Ozone Defined

Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects life on earth by filtering the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. However, ozone on the ground is a pollutant and a component of summer time smog. Ozone is produced by a series of chemical reactions in the atmosphere. During hot weather conditions, emissions of chemicals from automobiles, industry and other non-natural sources can produce high ozone levels. At times, ozone can be transported down to the surface from the ozone rich upper atmosphere, or produced during warm weather conditions due to chemical reactions involving organic compounds emitted by vegetation.

Fine particulate matter and ozone are two principal components of smog. For more information about smog, see the Smog Facts page.

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Updated: Nov 3, 2015