February 9, 2004

IJC Board cites cross-border air issues still requiring further action

A new report by the International Joint Commission's Air Quality Advisory Board calls attention to seven transboundary air quality issues which it considers to be of still-significant concern. Its Summary of Critical Air Quality Issues in the Transboundary Region provides a concise analysis of these issues and presents recommendations to enhance efforts to preserve and improve air quality in the region. Although actions have been taken on several of the issues, the Board says much remains to be done.

The Board believes the information in its report may help stimulate discussion among interested groups and encourage the governments to fully utilize the potential of the 1991 Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement as a framework for enhanced cross-border co-operation and a more integrated approach to dealing with transboundary air quality issues.

The following critical issues, some of which are currently addressed under the Agreement, are reviewed in the report.

1. Many of the "dirty dozen" persistent toxics are diminishing in the Great Lakes; however several persist in wildlife, particularly fish, posing a health threat to significant subpopulations. Those that remain are primarily from regional and global atmospheric transport and new persistent pollutants are taking their place.

2. Global mercury emissions remain unchanged as reductions in North America are offset by increases in Asian contributions. Regional and global transport and deposition continue to contribute to unhealthy concentrations in fish and humans.

3. Further reductions are needed in emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides from boats, ships, planes, construction equipment and small gasoline engines.

4. Nitrogen compounds, such as nitrogen dioxide, a precursor to acid rain and ground level ozone, remain pivotal. More focus is needed on ammonia emissions from large animal feedlots and other sources.

5. A further review of efforts to prevent deterioration of air quality in non-urban, relatively clean, designated areas is necessary.

6. The availability of new public information tools, such as the Internet, including air quality indices and/or health based advisories, is stimulating great public interest and concern regarding air quality. More consistency is needed in messages delivered by the various alerting tools in the transboundary region.

7. How well are air quality management programs performing? Inventories, monitoring and analyses all need renewal to continue to provide relevant verification and guidance.

The IJC's Air Quality Advisory Board includes five Canadian and five U.S. members who have expertise in various aspects of air quality, emission control and the health impacts of air pollutants. They are appointed by the Commission and serve as advisors in their personal and professional capacities. The summary report may be viewed on the IJC Web site, www.ijc.org. More information is also available from Jennifer Day at the IJC Windsor regional office, 519/257-6733, or Fabien LengellÈ at the Ottawa office, 613/995-0088. 455

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