An environmental group has warned that a new reduced sulphur content limits will not necessarily translate into the lowest possible conentrations, and that Ontario continues to be get the highest sulphur content fuels in the country. “A loophole in the sulphur in gasoline regulations means Canadians can’t trust that the gas at the pump will be cleaner as of July 1, 2002,” when new federal limits take force, said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth. Data on sulphur content, obtained by the group through the access to information act, indicates that Canadian petroleum refiners such as Imperial Oil (ESSO) and Petro-Canada will be exploiting the regulatory loophole in the July 1 phase one that calls for a standard of 150 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur, according to the group. The new data also indicates that gasoline used by Ontario motorists continues to be the dirtiest, with average sulphur content coming from refineries ranging from a low of 200 ppm by Sunoco to a high of 730 ppm by Imperial Oil, both in Sarnia. In Atlantic Canada, sulphur content ranges from a low of 31 ppm at Irving Oil to a high of 440 ppm at Imperial Oil, Dartmouth. In Quebec, sulphur content ranges from a low of 260 ppm at Ultramar to a high of 430 ppm at Petro-Canada. Average sulphur content in the Prairies ranges from a low of 49 ppm at Shell Canada to a high of 350 by Imperial Oil. In British Columbia, sulphur content ranges from a low of 160 ppm to a high of 300 ppm. All of these figures represent the average sulphur content of petroleum refiners over the second and third quarter of 2001. Federal government regulations, passed in 1999, require the average annual sulphur content gasoline fuel to be reduced to 150 ppm by July of this year and 30 ppm by 2005. Sulphur particles resulting from burning high sulphur fuels and from other sources form the most health-damaging part of summer smog. Burning dirty fuels increases emissions of sulphur dioxide and sulphate particles into the air. Breathing sulphate particles causes asthma symptoms, respiratory problems, hospital admissions, and premature deaths. High sulphur content also limts the effectiveness and longevity of pollution control devices on cars. Auto makers have suggested in the past that high sulphur content has been a barrier to the introduction of more effective pollution control technologies. “Clearly, these latest figures show that with few exceptions Canada’s petroleum producers will continue to pollute to the max as long as they can,” said Olivastri. “There is no reason why Canada or any other country should continue to permit health damaging sulphur to remain in liquid fuel, including diesel and heating oil. By 2010, any liquid fuel marketed in Canada should be sulphur-free,” she added. Sulphur-free fuel is defined as containing less than 5 ppm.