Media Release

Canadians’ Right to Know Opposed by Chemical Industry

Joint release from six environment and health organizations

Jun 11 2007

Vancouver, BC – A coalition of health and environmental organizations from across the country are demanding that the federal government change the law so that Canadians can find out what’s in consumer products.  The groups want the ingredients in everyday products such as cleaners and pesticides to be clearly identified so that people can make informed decisions about exposing themselves and their families to cancer-causing chemicals or hormone disruptors. In a position paper sent to Health Canada’s Chronic Hazards for Consumer Chemicals Review, the groups, led by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society, call for plain language, hazard-based labeling on any consumer product containing a carcinogen, endocrine disrupting, developmental or reproductive toxin.  “With cancer rates at all time highs and the link between exposure to toxins and cancer established by sound science, Canadians are demanding their right to know.  This is a basic principle of a democratic society,” says Mae Burrows, Executive Director of Labour Environmental Alliance Society. For the two years, the Labour Environmental Alliance has been representing community groups in discussions with Health Canada and chemical industry representatives concerning possible changes to labeling laws. The Labour Environmental Alliance Society - in partnership with Canadian Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Breast Cancer Action Montreal, Prevent Cancer Now Coalition, Canadian Environmental Law Association, and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee - is gravely concerned that the government will give in to the chemical industry’s opposition to changes in federal labeling laws.“Many Canadians are surprised to discover that they are exposed to dozens of substances linked to cancer and other serious health conditions on a daily basis,” says Burrows. “They are also equally surprised to learn that many of these toxins are in common consumer products such as personal care products, pesticides and floor cleaners. Industry is strongly opposed to our position on changes in labelling laws, citing the need to harmonize our laws with weak US laws and avoid trade irritants.”“The Federal government is at a fork in the road”, says the Canadian Association of Physician’s for the Environment’s past founding president, Dr. Warren Bell. “Either they accept the need for full disclosure labelling, naming the known hazards in consumer products, or they place the financial interest of businesses selling these products ahead of safety. The issue could not be more stark, nor the right course more clear.  Complete, accurate, honest labelling is the only way to go.”“While we are making significant progress in cancer research and treatment, prevention must be a much higher priority,” says Andrea Reimer, executive Director of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. “Our proposed law is a logical step in helping Canadians become more proactive in practicing cancer prevention, which will benefit everyone given how many people are affected when cancer strikes a friend or family member.”“The demand for cancer prevention information, and the motivation for Canadians to change their product purchasing and usage habits, is at an all-time high,” says Burrows. “A change in labelling is long overdue and strongly supported by a strong majority of Canadians, according to recent polling,”“We believe that this is an opportune time for the federal government to show leadership on health and environmental issues by putting in place strong product labeling legislation that protects and empowers Canadians,” says Sarah Miller of Canadian Environmental Law Association. “CELA believes that the Harper government will find strong support for this proposed law from all the federal political parties.” “We can’t let the chemical industry dictate what information is available to Canadians, especially when it comes to their own health,” says Carol Secter of Breast Cancer Action Montreal. “Our organization sees on a daily basis the tragic impact that high breast cancer rates are having on women across this country, and we believe that the solid science behind the linkages of exposure to toxins and cancer is a wake-up call, which our governments must respond to.” “This is the first time that this recently formed coalition of national non-profit health and environmental organizations have been working together on cancer prevention,” says Angela Rickman of the Prevent Cancer Now Coalition. “All of these groups recognize the need for changes to federal laws governing labeling so that Canadians can exercise cancer prevention and reduce the incidence of this widespread disease.”- 30 - For more information, see document linked below containing summaries of stakeholder positions within the Expert Group Deliberations for Chronic Hazards for Consumer Chemical Products.To arrange an interview, please contact: Mae Burrows, Executive Director, Labour Environmental Alliance Society, 604 916-9026 (cell) office 604.526.1956Dr. Warren Bell, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, 250.833.7615Sarah Miller, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 416-960-2284 (ext 213)Andrea Reimer, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 604.719.3920Carol Secter, Breast Cancer Action Montréal, 514. 489.9594Angela Rickman, Prevent Cancer NOW Coalition, 613.482.8124