Announcement: January 27, 2004

International Joint Commission Releases
Summary of Critical Air Quality Issues Between
Canada and the United States - Encourages Continued Action

Click here for the Full Report in: PDF Format HTML Format

The International Joint Commission today released the report Summary of Critical Air Quality Issues in the Transboundary Region, highlighting a number of significant transboundary air quality issues facing Canada and the United States. The report makes a series of recommendations to enhance efforts to preserve and improve air quality in the transboundary region. Although actions have been taken on several of the issues, much remains to be done.

The report, written by the Commission’s International Air Quality Advisory Board, lays out a concise analysis of seven issues detailing the story behind each issue, what it means, and presents recommendations for action to improve air quality in the transboundary region. The report provides information that can be useful in stimulating discussion among interested groups and encouraging the governments to fully utilize the potential of their 1991 Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement as a framework for enhanced cross-border cooperation and a more integrated approach to addressing transboundary air quality issues. This report focuses on specific transboundary air pollution issues, some of which are currently addressed under the agreement.

Critical issues addressed 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 in emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides from boats, ships, planes, construction equipment and small gasoline engines are needed.
  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. A consistency of message among the various alerting tools used in the transboundary region is needed.
  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 International Joint Commission is a binational organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. It provides advice to the governments of Canada and the United States on boundary waters and on air quality issues of transboundary concern. In 1966 the governments asked the International Joint Commission to observe air quality along the entire Canada and United States boundary and, as appropriate, draw air pollution problems to the attention of governments. The Commission established the International Air Quality Advisory Board to identify and provide advice on air pollution issues with transboundary implications. The board includes five members from Canada and five from the United States 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.

This report and others prepared by the International Air Quality Board are available on the IJC’s web site at:


For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Day Windsor, ON /Detroit, MI (519) 257-6733/
(313) 226-2170 ext. 6733
Frank Bevacqua Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9024
Fabien Lengellé Ottawa, ON (613) 995-0088
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