Air Quality Objectives & Standards

Introduction

Air quality objectives are limits on the acceptable presence of contaminants in the atmosphere, established by government agencies to protect human health and the environment. They are generally expressed in terms of a concentration (e.g., micrograms per cubic metre, or parts per billion) measured over a specific period of time (e.g., one hour, 24 hours or one year).

Objectives are one kind of "criteria." Criteria also include standards, guidelines and planning goals.

British Columbia has adopted air quality objectives and standards for a number of contaminants, including: Particulate Matter (PM)10, PM2.5, ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. 

Objectives & Standards

For more information, see Provincial Framework for Developing Provincial Air Quality Objectives (PDF).


How Air Quality Objectives are Used

Air quality objectives are non-statutory limits used to guide decisions, unless written specifically into a permit or regulation. They are typically used to:

  • assess current or historical air quality;
  • guide decisions on the permitting of new or modified facilities;
  • guide decisions on episode management, such as air quality advisories;
  • develop long-term air-management strategies and evaluate progress, and
  • aid regulatory development.

As even low levels of air pollution can affect some individuals, air quality objectives should not be viewed as levels we can “pollute up to," but levels to stay well below.