Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment

BACKGROUNDER – Canada-Wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans Emissions from Waste Incinerators and Coastal Pulp and Paper Boilers

What are the Canada-wide Standards for  Dioxins and Furans?

The Canada-wide Standards  for Dioxins and Furans are the only Standard that address substances that are  designated for "virtual elimination" under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.  

The CWSs represent a  significant step toward the ultimate goal of virtual elimination of dioxins and  furans.  Pollution prevention is  identified as the preferred approach for achieving that goal.  

These CWSs address  atmospheric releases from two sectors which are the source of 25% of national  releases: coastal pulp and paper boilers; and the waste incineration sector.  

The proposed standards will  lead to a combined emission reduction of at least 80% from these two sources by  2006.

The incineration standard  applies to municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, medical waste and sewage  sludge facilities.  It sets emission  limits for new and existing facilities and includes a pollution prevention  strategy.  The expected reduction in  emissions from this sector is 86%.

The coastal pulp and paper  boiler CWS applies only to BC coastal mills that burn salt-laden wood fuel in  their boilers.  It includes emission  limits for new boilers, effective when the standard is signed, and sets limits  for existing boilers to be achieved by 2006.   The standard also incorporates a pollution prevention strategy.  Existing boilers can meet the standard with  currently available technologies.  

This standard will result in  an emission reduction of approximately 45% from this sector based on the 1999  Inventory of Releases.  

Technology and pollution  prevention opportunities will be reviewed in 2003 to determine if further  reductions can be achieved within the timeframe of the standard.  

Work is continuing on  standards for other sectors that emit dioxins and furans,  including conical waste combustors, iron and steel and residential wood  stoves.  These standards will be  presented to Ministers in 2001.  

What is the science on dioxins and  furans?

Dioxins and furans are a family of chemicals formed as a  by-product of combustion processes. Scientific assessments have found dioxins  and furans to be among the most hazardous compounds to human health and the  environment.  They are persistent,  bioaccumulative and toxic.  Dioxins and  furans are known carcinogens and have been linked to developmental, respiratory,  reproductive and cardiovascular disorders.   They are also suspected endocrine disruptors.

Extent of the problem

The total Canadian  atmospheric release of dioxins and furans is currently estimated at 200 grams  per year, from more than 20 different sectors and activities.  

Emissions from coastal pulp  and paper boilers and the incineration sector are estimated at about 50 grams,  or about 25% of national emissions of dioxins and furans.

Achieving the Standard

Ministers will receive  regular reports on progress in achieving the CWSs. These will include a review  in 2006 to determine whether further targets towards virtual elimination should  be set.  A final report in  2008 will  evaluate whether the current targets have been met. Information on implementation will be available on the CCME web site  at