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Toxic Toronto? Emission stats revealed in groundbreaking ChemTRAC report - HazMat Magazine

Toxic Toronto?
Emission stats revealed in groundbreaking ChemTRAC report

July 9, 2012
David Nesseth

Results are in from the first phase of an innovative toxic tracker system launched to green Toronto’s business community and reduce human and environmental exposure to harmful chemical substances from places like dry cleaners or funeral parlours.

The results paint two pictures: One – that of the vast amount (66,000 tonnes) of chemicals manufactured or used by 274 facilities, only 7.9 per cent were released to land and water, but mostly air. The second picture is that certain chemicals – notably nitrogen oxides and acetaldehyde – are almost completely released to the environment, at 97.6 and 99.6 per cent, respectively.

The City of Toronto’s ChemTRAC program requires local facilities to annually track and report on the use and release of 25 priority substances like mercury, lead and cadmium (see full list below article).

On December 3, 2008, city council adopted the Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program, which included the Environmental Reporting and Disclosure Bylaw (Municipal Code Chapter 423).

Businesses can be fined up to $300 if they don’t comply and up to $5,000 if they under-report.

Representatives from the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) ­– a group working to create a greener Toronto – attended the city’s Board of Health meeting on June 25, 2012. In a statement, the alliance responds to how the ChemTRAC program can not only track emissions, but reduce them down the line.

“We have everything to gain from the ChemTRAC program and nothing to lose because it is completely up to the company to decide if they wish to develop an action plan to control, reduce or eliminate these substances from their facility,” TEA says.

“Other jurisdictions that have a similar by-law have found that businesses often take steps to control these substances because it is in their best interest,” TEA continues. “In fact, a number of Toronto businesses have already undertaken pollution prevention in their facilities and have reported a number of benefits including greater efficiencies, increased profitability, lower business risks, healthier employees and improved community relations.”

Phase one results of the program were released on June 25, 2012 for the first wave of local facilities, which included printers, chemical producers, food and beverage manufacturers, water treatment facilities, wood manufacturers and power generators. The data is from the program’s first year of operation in 2010. The results are included in the Toronto Public Health report Tracking and Reducing Chemicals in Toronto: ChemTRAC Annual Report – 2010 Reporting Year June 2012.

The top two chemicals facilities reported are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with 43,821,444 kg used, nine per cent of which was reported as released to the environment. Second ranked is fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), with 19,439,634 used, 0.9 per cent of which was released to the environment.

ChemTRAC uses a toxic equivalency potential (TEP) ranking to determine which chemicals could potentially cause the most harm. TEP, ChemTRAC says, provides a value based on the amount released, and the toxicity of a substance, taking into account the carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of the substance.

By a wide margin, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) is the number one offender in terms of carcinogens released to the environment. It more than doubles the TEP score of second place offender cadmium.

The report explains in detail what PAHs are:

“PAHs are a group of chemicals that are released as a by-product of combustion and certain industrial processes. They are a component of asphalt, coal tar and other bituminous products. Individuals can be exposed to a number of PAHs through food and breathing. Food is the major source of exposure to PAHs, however the risk of lung cancer from breathing air contaminated with PAHs may be higher than the risk of stomach cancer from exposure through food.”

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, made a presentation on June 8, 2012 about the ChemTRAC report.

“TPH is concerned about potential health effects from ChemTRAC substances in the short and long-term,” says McKeown’s staff report. “The 2010 data are a helpful ‘snapshot in time’ of use and release from certain facilities to help us better understand potential health impacts, but more information is needed to fully assess health risks.”

The next two phases of ChemTRAC will take place from 2012 to 2013, slowly expanding the reporting process across additional sectors such as chemical wholesale, dry cleaning and laundry services, funeral services, waste management and remediation, medical and diagnostic laboratories, as well as autobody refinishing.

Tracked chemicals GROUP A
Cadmium and its compounds
Carbon tetrachloride
Chloroform (Trichloromethane)
Chromium, Hexavalent and its compounds
Chromium, Non-hexavalent and its compounds
1,2-Dibromo ethane (Ethylene dibromide)
1,2-Dichloroethane (Ethylene dichloride)
Dichloromethane (Methylene chloride)
Lead and its compounds
Manganese and its compounds
Mercury and its compounds
Nickel and its compounds
Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene)
Vinyl chloride

Tracked Chemicals GROUP B
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Tracked Chemicals GROUP C
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)