Air quality highlights

  • Overall, air quality in Ontario has improved over time as both ambient concentrations of common air pollutants and emissions to air have decreased. Over the last 10 years, nitrogen dioxide concentrations have decreased by 28%, fine particulate matter concentrations by 18%, and sulphur dioxide concentrations by 54% on average across the province (see table below).
  • In 2021, Ontario reported air quality in the low-risk category 93% of the time, based on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).
  • Ozone and fine particulate matter, the main components of smog, remain as pollutants of concern from a regional perspective. Sulphur dioxide and benzene remain a concern at the local level in some communities.
  • In 2021, there were exceedances of the provincial Ambient Air Quality Criteria and/or Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter and sulphur dioxide in some communities.
  • Decreasing trends were observed for some traffic-related pollutants including black carbon and sulphate in fine particulate matter, while others showed no trend.
  • Air quality in Ontario can vary from year to year due to a variety of factors including pollutant emissions, weather, natural events such as forest fires, and the long-range transport of air pollutants from the United States and elsewhere. Long-term trends are thus a better reflection of any improvements or a deterioration in air quality over time versus year over year changes.
Trends in common air pollutants, 2012-2021
PollutantConcentrationsEmissions
Nitrogen dioxide/ Nitrogen oxides (NO2/NOx)-28%-37%
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)-18%-12%
Ground-level ozone (O3)No trendN/A
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)-54%-62%
Trends in volatile organic compounds, 2012-2021
PollutantConcentrations
Benzene-36%
Toluene-53%
Ethylbenzene-39%
m- and p-xylene-39%
o-xylene-33%
1,3 butadiene-53%