Earth Matters

Toronto ChemTRAC – providing public with the right to know and the tools to act!


 Want to learn more about the dangers that you can’t see?
ChemTRAC map
I am talking about airborne chemicals, pollutants and toxins that impact our immune system and increase our risk of cancer.  If you are like me you have read about many of these substances impacting our health, but have trouble locating and removing the potentially dangerous sources. Here’s where ChemTRAC comes in.  The City of Toronto’s ChemTRAC Program provides the public with the ‘right to know’ about what chemicals are being used and released in their communities.
What is ChemTRAC?
Under the new Toronto Bylaw – businesses and industries (large and small) are required to report their chemical use and release of 25 priority chemical substances each year.  This data is then made available to the public through an online interactive map which allows individuals to search and learn about what chemicals might be released, unseen in their communities. It’s like having a bird’s eye view of your neighbourhood that shows local pollution!
Visit the ChemTRAC Website:
How can I reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals?
The Toronto Toxic Reduction Toolkit was recently released by the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition (TCPC), designed to help Torontonians use the City’s ChemTRAC Program and help community leaders take steps to reduce exposures and releases in their neighbourhood or work place.
The toolkit includes information on the reporting bylaw and the 25 priority substances, examples of companies who have taken good steps towards pollution prevention, how to search chemicals using ChemTRAC and take action in your community, and lastly how to audit your workplace and home for toxic chemicals.
Download the tool kit here:
Chapter 8 of the tool kit focuses on getting the toxic 25 out of your home.  The scary truth is that tests have found that pollution in your home can be higher than outside due to everyday products that contain toxic chemicals.  Use this guide to audit your home for the culprit products which often include:
– household cleaners
– air fresheners
– pesticides
– laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets
– furniture
– cosmetics and personal care products
– dry-cleaning
– shoe cleaners and waterproofing sprays
– PVC toys and shower curtains
– adhesives, sealants, paints and glues
Does Sunnybrook Have to Report to ChemTRAC?
Yes, all hospitals are required to report if their chemical use and release of the 25 priority substances exceeds the reporting thresholds. For 2012 Sunnybrook reported on the release of VOCs and Nitrogen Oxides and the use of Formaldehyde.
Summary of Sunnybrook ChemTRAC Reporting for 2012:
Chemical Substance


Quantity Used



Quantity Released to Air



196 kg
106 kg
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
7944 kg
7547 kg
2751 kg
0 kg


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are mainly released from our use of alcohols & aromatics in medical labs and prepping for various hospital procedures. VOCs contribute to the creation of ozone and smog and are linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.
Nitrous Oxide N2O (laughing gas) is released through our use of N2O as an anesthetic. Typically less than 5% of the anesthetic is metabolized by the human body and the remainder is exhausted. Nitrous oxide is a major greenhouse gas and also contributes to air pollution.
Formaldehyde is mainly used in our medical labs in enclosed tissue processors and as such is not released to the air.
What is Sunnybrook Doing to Reduce Air Pollution?
An anesthetic gas capturing system called The Deltasorb® by Blue Zone Technologies is installed at Sunnybrook to reduce the air pollution and global warming impact due to halogenated ethers in our anesthetic gasses. These halogenated ethers are toxic and have an adverse impact on air quality and human health issues. They are also potent greenhouse gases that have a 20-year global warming impact up to 3,766 times greater than CO2.
The Deltasorb® canister uses a sieve-like filtering matrix known as Deltazite® to selectively adsorb halogenated ethers as they pass through the canister prior to being vented to the atmosphere.  The captured chemicals are returned to Blue Zone’s facilities where they are then recycled.
For more information about Deltasorb see the Blue Zone Website:


About the author

Laura Berndt

Laura Berndt (Hough) is the Manager of Energy & Sustainability in Plant Operations at Sunnybrook.