Acid rain and smog disappearing, says environment ministry



This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Air Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States, considered one of the most successful international accords designed to reduce emissions that cause acid rain and smog. 

'When Canada and the United States signed the Air Quality Agreement in 1991, transboundary movement of air pollution from industrial activities on both sides of the border resulted in an acid rain causing serious damage to our environment and in smog posing a serious threat in the air we breathe,' said Canada's Environmental Minister Peter Kent.

Lisa Jackson, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator echoed Kent's comments:  'Thanks to the cooperation between our nations over the last 20 years, Canada and the United States have made great strides in the ongoing effort to reduce harmful air pollution and prevent serious health challenges for our people.'

Acid rain and smog can have a wide-range of effects not only on the natural environment, but also on human health, including heart and lung problems.

According to Environment Canada, Canadian emissions causing acid rain have been cut in half since 1990, and emissions causing smog have been cut by one-third.

  • Sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions have gone down 54 per cent, mainly due to reductions from base metal smelters and fossil fuel-fired electricity generating utilities.
  • Particulate matter emissions, which have been linked to respiratory and cardiac illness, have been reduced by 34 per cent.   
  • Nitrogen oxides emissions have also been reduced by one-third in the southern and central Ontario and southern Quebec region.

The U.S. has seen similarly positive results since the agreement was signed.  U.S. sulphur dioxide emissions have been reduced by 67 per cent, and its power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides have decreased by over two-thirds.

Since the addition of the Ozone Annex to the agreement in 2000, Canada has been able to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions by a third in the southern and central Ontario and southern Quebec transboundary region defined under the agreement.

'These reductions have contributed to significant improvements in air quality on both sides of the border,' said Environment Canada in a statement.

It added that 'Canada is looking forward to continuing its bilateral cooperation with the U.S., and to resolving the environmental challenges that face our countries.'

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