November 2013 Bulletin

Children’s furniture found with harmful flame retardant chemicals

The "Playing on Poisons" report, released by the Center for Environmental Health with other North American groups including CELA, reported on independent testing of children’s furniture. Tests revealed the widespread use of multiple flame retardant chemicals in most samples. These chemicals are known to be released during normal use. They can also build up in house dust creating exposure risks for children. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, infertility and other serious health problems. Fire experts state that incorporating them into foam does not even provide fire safety benefits in furniture. CELA believes that the presence of these chemicals in children’s furniture indicates inadequate federal regulation of consumer products. California is poised to implement a new fire safety standard in January 2014 (not mandatory until 2015) that allows for new chemical-free fire safety methods but does not ban the use of toxic substances. The groups that issued "Playing on Poisons" have urged companies to offer safer, flame retardant-free products as quickly as possible. For more information, read our press release.

Environmentalists in court to challenge plans for new Ontario nuclear reactors

Lawyers from Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) represented several environmental groups in Federal Court, trying to end plans to build new nuclear reactors in Ontario. The groups included Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, CELA and Northwatch. The organizations allege that the project’s federal environmental review was flawed in its failure to consider and address a raft of risks to the environment and Ontarians. On Oct. 10, the Ontario government publicly announced that it would abandon its billion-dollar plan to build new reactors at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario, due to prohibitive cost and falling electricity demand. However, outstanding approvals could allow the project to be resurrected at a later date. For more information, read our media release

Local Food Act passed with further improvements

The Ontario Government’s Local Food Act (Bill 36) was recently passed by the Ontario Legislature with a few improvements from earlier versions of the Bill. Introduced in March 2013, the Bill was amended following hearings before the Standing Committee on Social Policy in October at which CELA appeared and gave testimony. (The original bill was introduced on October 4, 2012, but died on the order paper as a result of prorogation.) “CELA regards local food legislation as critically important for Ontario’s economic and environmental health”, said Joseph F. Castrilli, counsel at CELA, and noted that “the bill, though further improved from its previous iterations, could still have benefited from stronger legislative language, greater accountability, and a broader scope." For more information, read our media release.

Help call for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides

December 12th is the deadline to send your comments to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency about neonicotinoid pesticides, which are believed to be harming bees and other pollinators. (CELA and Ecojustice worked with several environmental organizations to file a Notice of Objection about these pesticides in July 2013.) The PMRA has called for comments on a document that states a “Notice of Intent” to apply what it describes as “additional protective measures” during the 2014 pesticide spraying season. These measures would simply require changes in seed planting techniques, enhanced warning labels, and more information from companies about why they need to use these pesticides. We don't feel these steps are good enough. We strongly encourage Canadians to submit comments and call for a full ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. Strong scientific evidence indicates that these pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to honey bees and native pollinators. Controlling dust during planting will not prevent the build-up of these chemicals in soil or their movement through the water table. Email your comments to PMRA.publications@hc-sc.gc.ca and provide your full name, address and postal code. For more information, see previous media release about our Notice of Objection to the continued conditional registration of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Budget bill changes to Labour Code cut health protection

Buried in the omnibus Bill C-4 are drastic changes to Canada's Labour Code that have been drafted without any public consultation. CELA's submission to the Commons and Senate Committees reviewing the bill, focused on the change to the Code's definition of “danger." The existing definition is much like the one in the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, enacted in 2011, that allows for consideration of potential future health effects including chronic illness or disease, and damage to the reproductive system. The proposed new Canada Labour Code definition would focus solely on acute and immediate hazard. We raised concerns about this new definition, and how it removes protections for 800,000 federally-regulated employees who might be exposed to asbestos, radiation, or endocrine disrupting chemicals. These federally-regulated workers would have no recourse if chronic health effects were later identified. We also pointed out that in addition to being contrary to the definition of “danger” in Canada’s recently reformed product safety law, chemical safety assessments under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are not required to assess occupational risks to prospective parents (male or female) or to pregnant women. For more information, read our media release.

CELA's annual report now available

We're pleased to make our 2013 annual report available for you to download. Check out our highlights from 2013 and our current projects. Download the Annual Report.

EPA removes Niagara-area hazardous waste site from Superfund Priority List

The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) in late October 2013 removed from the agency’s list of priority Superfund sites, a 60-year old hazardous waste dump that has been a source of contamination to the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, despite strong reservations and concerns expressed in 2012 by the Ontario and Canadian Governments and a bi-national coalition of environmental organizations. For more information, read our media release.

CELA's submission on the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act

CELA appeared before a provincial legislative standing committee last week on the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act for public hearings. CELA's submission was based on the Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance analysis and recommendations. CELA made several suggestions to strengthen protection of the Great Lakes from toxics. The Hansard record includes our submissions to committee. On November 27, 2013, the Committee on Regulations and Private Members Bills adopted the proposal from the Alliance to more explicitly include toxics protection in the purposes section of the Bill. However, the Committee did not complete its consideration of the Bill on Nov. 27, contrary to expectations, and we are urging all parties to expedite its referral from committee back to the legislature for vote and passage with all party support.

Green Budget Coalition recommendations

The latest Green Budget Coalition recommendations for the federal Budget 2014 includes suggestions for fresh water protection, First Nations green infrastructure, reform to oil and gas and nuclear liability regimes and a national conservation plan among others. The recommendations were developed by 14 national environmental organizations, including CELA. Read our media release for more information.