The Alward government is looking at changing the province's Clean Air Act to eliminate the need for small producers of some air pollutants to get government approval.
The draft regulation is currently up for public review, with the deadline for input set for Nov. 13.
Government officials say they want to make it easier for small businesses to operate.
But a family doctor in Saint John, where studies have found elevated levels of pollutants, as well as high rates of asthma and death from lung disease, said she is worried about the proposal.
"The government won't be able to control the air pollution, and keep it under safe levels for people," said Dr. Paula Tippett.
'There'll be more asthma, more premature deaths, more lung problems, more heart problems.' —Dr. Paula Tippett
"There'll be more asthma, more premature deaths, more lung problems, more heart problems," said Tippett.
Under the proposed new rules, companies producing less than 10 tonnes of sulphur dioxide emissions and 10 tonnes of particulate matter per year would no longer require approval if they're using fuel oil, natural gas, propane, butane or wood.
The province's largest industries, such as the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery, produce significantly larger amounts — between hundreds and tens of thousands of tonnes.
Impact on shale gas industry unclear
Ryan Donaghy, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Local Government, said the proposed change would have little impact on air quality because larger facilities will continue to require permits.
But Tippett questions whether that will include the shale gas industry.
"It causes air pollution in areas that didn't have it before, in rural areas," she said.
"And it can cause very high levels of the ozone type of air pollution, and also you have the particulates from the diesel fuel burning, and the sulphur dioxide."
Two reports on the shale gas industry, released on Monday, call for baseline testing and monitoring of air quality.
Government officials have not provided information on which businesses would be affected by the proposed change or what kind of monitoring would be in place for those that would no longer require approvals.