Emissions inventories aid in understanding the sources of hazardous air pollutants and how these vary regionally, supporting targeted reduction actions. Integrating information on the relative toxicity of emitted pollutants with respect to cancer in humans helps to further refine reduction actions or recommendations, but few national programs exist in North America that use emissions estimates in this way. The CAREX Canada Emissions Mapping Project provides key regional indicators of emissions (total annual and total annual toxic equivalent, circa 2011) of 21 selected known and suspected carcinogens.
The indicators were calculated from industrial emissions reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and estimates of emissions from transportation (airports, trains, and car and truck traffic) and residential heating (oil, gas and wood), in conjunction with human toxicity potential factors. We also include substance-specific annual emissions in toxic equivalent kilograms and annual emissions in kilograms, to allow for ranking substances within any region.
For provinces and territories in Canada, the indicators suggest the top five substances contributing to the total toxic equivalent emissions in any region could be prioritized for further investigation. Residents of Quebec and New Brunswick may be more at risk of exposure to industrial emissions than those in other regions, suggesting that a more detailed study of exposure to industrial emissions in these provinces is warranted. Residential wood smoke may be an important emission to control, particularly in the north and eastern regions of Canada. Residential oil and gas heating, along with rail emissions contribute little to regional emissions and therefore may not be an immediate regional priority.
The developed indicators support the identification of pollutants and sources for additional investigation when planning exposure reduction actions among Canadian provinces and territories, but have important limitations similar to other emissions inventory-based tools. Additional research is required to evaluate how the Emissions Mapping Project is used by different groups and organizations with respect to informing actions aimed at reducing Canadians' potential exposure to harmful air pollutants.