U.S., Canada Seek to Reduce Cross-Border Flow of Air Pollution

Canada and the United States will begin negotiation of an annex to the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement aimed at reducing the cross-border flow of air pollution and its impact on the health and ecosystems of Canadians and Americans.

U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and the Honorable John Baird, Canada's minister of the environment, met on April 13 to discuss common cross-border and global environment priorities. The officials noted that both Canada and the United States recognize that cooperative action can reduce the transboundary flow of particulate matter (PM) originating on either side of the border.

"Pollution, especially air pollution, knows no geographic or political borders," Johnson said. "Our nations are committed to becoming better environmental neighbors, and the negotiation of this annex will strengthen the successful U.S.-Canadian collaboration helping clean the air for North American residents for generations."

Baird said, "Canada's new government is committed to improving the quality of the air we breathe. This work will complement the concrete actions this government is taking at home to reduce greenhouse gases and the pollutants that cause climate change and smog."

The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement, negotiated in 1991, marked a new era of cooperation aimed at helping to guarantee cleaner air and a healthier environment for millions of Americans and Canadians. The PM Annex would complement the annex negotiated in 2000 addressing ground-level ozone, as well as the original annexes on acid rain and scientific cooperation.

Particulate matter consists of airborne particles in solid or liquid form. The pollutant can be emitted directly at the emissions source, for example, from a smokestack of an electrical power plant or as the result of reactions between chemicals as they are transported through the atmosphere. According to EPA officials, numerous studies have linked particulate matter to cardiac and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and to various forms of heart disease.

Recent scientific analysis has shown that joint strategies are needed to address these pollutants. This research, conducted over the last three years, has shown that emissions of PM and its precursors can significantly affect air quality in both countries. The annex will result in reductions in PM as well as many of the chemicals that contribute to other air quality issues of concern such as acid rain, regional haze and visibility in the communities along the U.S.-Canada border.

Information on the joint technical and scientific analyses on particulate matter can be found at http://www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca/saib/smog/transboundary/index_e.html.

For more information about the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement, visit http://www.epa.gov/airmarket/progsregs/usca.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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