Aamjiwnaang First Nation dealing with carcinogenic benzene emergency in the air from local petrochemical industry

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – We applaud the federal government’s emergency Interim Order put in place today in Chemical Valley in southwestern Ontario. Toxic benzene levels have regularly exceeded permitted levels and, according to the Minister of Environment‘s statement, are a “significant danger to human health.” The order will force these facilities to upgrade their benzene storage facilities, which will address a long-standing community demand.

This authority, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, is an important step in addressing the health risks and environmental injustice faced by Aamjiwnaang First Nation and supports their decades-long fight to protect themselves from the health harms and environmental contamination they face. We are encouraged to see the federal government step up and force polluters to stop treating our air, water and lands as their free toxic dump.

This situation underscores the need for strong federal regulations to transition our society toward clean energy, clean chemistry and a waste-free future. This action to enforce the rules for known carcinogens is an important step in holding polluters accountable.


  • On April 25, Aamjiwnaang First Nation issued a state of emergency when benzene levels were found to be 300 times higher (125 to 150 ug/m3) than the health-based air quality standard of 0.45 ug/m3.

  • Benzene is a carcinogen that is linked to respiratory harms and premature death.

  • Benzene is produced in the oil refinery process and is used and released by the nearby Ineos Styrolution plant during the production of the plastic monomer styrene.

  • The Ontario government has issued an enforcement order to Ineos Styrolution’s styrene plant in Sarnia, which has exceeded safe benzene levels repeatedly. The company is now required to notify the public of elevated benzene levels and investigate discharges.

  • The federal Order will force facilities with benzene exceedances at their fenceline air monitoring of over 29 ug/m3 to “implement vapour-control measures, including fully closed vent systems with vapour control on certain storage tanks.”

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

– 30 –

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Lauren Thomas, Environmental Defence, media@environmentaldefence.ca