ChemTRAC Frequently Asked Questions
These are the frequently asked questions about ChemTRAC by people living in Toronto.
What is ChemTRAC?
ChemTRAC is a program that aims to improve public health and support a green local economy by reducing toxic chemicals in our environment. Toronto Public Health has identified 25 priority substances that are in Toronto’s air environment at levels that are of concern for health.
Evidence links these substances to short-term health affects like respiratory problems, and longer-term impacts such as cancer.
- Require businesses to report their use and release of 25 priority substances to the City each year under the Environmental Disclosure and Reporting Bylaw
- Support local businesses to reduce or eliminate these chemicals and adopt green business strategies
- Provide you with information, including chemical data collected under the bylaw, to help you be a part of reducing toxic chemicals in your community
Research on similar programs show that when facilities are required to track and report chemicals, the information helps them find ways to reduce their toxic chemicals. This means sustainable businesses and a cleaner, healthier environment.
How can ChemTRAC help businesses in my community?
Managing toxic chemicals costs money for waste management, compliance, and health and safety. Programs like ChemTRAC have demonstrated that tracking chemicals is the first step to preparing a business to manage them more efficiently and cost-effectively, and to identify environmental opportunities to reduce chemical hazards.
How Do Businesses Use These Chemicals?
These chemicals may be used or released in a wide variety of operations, including chemical manufacturing, food and beverage production, automotive repair and laboratories. For example, trichloroethylene and dichloromethane are common cleaning solvents that may be used in sectors such as manufacturing.
Does ChemTRAC require businesses to make reductions in their use and release of priority substances?
Under the ChemTRAC program, businesses are not required to make reductions but many already have because of the benefits to their businesses.
How does ChemTRAC benefit my community?
ChemTRAC provides information about chemical data and environmental information about businesses in your neighbourhood. With this information, you can:
- get to know the types of businesses in your neighbourhood
- understand the chemicals that businesses use and release, and how they are greening their operations
- work with businesses and neighbours to green your neighbourhood and support local businesses in their greening efforts
- share success stories and learn from others in your community
- take action to reduce toxic exposure at home and in your daily activities
Can ChemTRAC data be used to measure human exposure to chemicals?
No. ChemTRAC data measures emissions and not direct human exposure. Exposure to a substance depends on many things: the location of the release, the height of the stack, the prevailing weather conditions and the properties of the substance. It may breakdown, be carried away by winds or rain before exposure to a neighbourhood can happen.
Is my health at risk because I live near a facility that reported to ChemTRAC?
Facilities must comply with provincial regulations that ensure that surrounding communities are not exposed to harmful levels of chemicals.
The ChemTRAC program collects data at certain facilities across Toronto to better understand the overall picture of health risk from the priority substances in the community. This information about the sources of exposure from multiple facilities helps in the study of the cumulative impact on health. Toronto Public Health will use ChemTRAC data to better understand how businesses may contribute to the chemicals in our air, which also come from vehicles, homes and sources outside Toronto.
The majority of substances reported in 2010 were used but not released to the environment. This information helps facilities to implement pollution prevention methods to decrease use of the priority substances. The substances that are reported as releases do not tell us whether or not people are directly exposed as there are other factors such as weather that carry pollutants in the air.
What can I do if I have concerns about the amount of chemicals that a facility is releasing
You can use the ChemTRAC data to discuss your concerns with the facility. The facility can help you in understanding their use and management of the priority substances. Your interest may lead to the facility considering pollution prevention opportunities.
Facilities must comply with provincial regulations that ensure that surrounding communities are not exposed to harmful levels of chemicals. If you suspect that a facility is not in compliance, contact the Ontario Ministry of Environment at 1-866-663-8477.
What information already exists about chemicals in my neighbourhood?
ChemTRAC is the first program of its kind in Canada that will provide local-level information on small and medium-sized businesses in your neighbourhood. Currently you can find information on the chemicals that larger businesses are releasing into our environment:
What types of businesses are covered?
All types of businesses located in Toronto that use and release any of the 25 priority substances are covered under the bylaw. Examples are included autobody shops, dry cleaners, food and beverage production plants, printing shops, manufacturers, metal processing, wood and other industries. The City of Toronto’s facilities, such as water treatment plants and printing shops, are also involved.
When did the ChemTRAC program start?
ChemTRAC has been underway since the beginning of 2010. Educational resources and assistance programs for businesses are available, grants are being awarded, and the reporting Bylaw is in effect.
Why were these particular 25 substances chosen?
Three approaches were used to identify the 25 priority substances in the ChemTRAC program:
- Substances that currently exceed health-based benchmarks in Toronto’s air (using data on air quality from Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment)
- Substances that have the largest potential health impact
- Substances that contribute to climate change