Media Release

Coalition urges federal cabinet to list as toxic, and restrict use of, chemical widely used in personal care products, despite panel conclusions

Feb 08 2012

Toronto - A coalition of health and environment groups from Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta today urged the federal government to proceed with its original plans to declare toxic, and restrict the use of, Siloxane D5, a chemical widely used in personal care and cosmetics products in Canada. The Coalition request, sent in a letter to the federal Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Peter Kent, comes despite a recent report of three scientists, established as a Board of Review under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) which concluded that D5 does not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity.

“While scientists may insist that something is not proven unless there is 99.9 per cent certainty, regulators do not need that level of certainty before acting to protect the public and the environment,” said Joseph F. Castrilli, a lawyer at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) who represented the Coalition in its intervention before the Board. “Under CEPA, the federal government is required as a matter of law to apply the precautionary principle, which states: ‘where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation’”.

Persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances are candidates for virtual elimination from the environment under Canadian law. The three-member panel agreed with Environment Canada that Siloxane D5 was persistent in the environment, but disagreed that it bioaccumulates, or causes toxic or adverse effects. The Board conclusion is contrary to the position of federal government scientists who had concluded that D5 is persistent, bioaccumulates, has the potential for toxicity, and is a high-volume chemical with wide availability in the environment and that, cumulatively, these factors pointed to a finding that D5 does pose a danger to the environment.

“The Board's conclusion that D5 is not bioaccumulative appeared to turn on whether the substance biomagnifies (builds up through the food chain)”, said Sandra Madray of Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba. “The Coalition is very concerned with this conclusion because in Canada and other jurisdictions, biomagnification is not a necessary condition in the determination of whether a substance bioaccumulates”, said Anna Tilman, Vice President of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health. “Reliance on biomagnification has the potential for significantly weakening Canada’s approach to the regulation of chemicals, and will effectively cause Canada to fall behind the European approach to control of persistent, bioaccumulative substances”, said Mary Richardson of the Crooked Creek Conservancy Society of Athabasca.

The Siloxane D5 Board of Review is the first established under CEPA. The Board's conclusions, if adopted by the federal government, may make it more difficult for federal scientists to build a case for restricting problematic chemicals in future, particularly at a time where Environment Canada is already facing severe cuts to its overall budget and still faces the task of completing assessments of approximately 1500 chemicals under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan over the next few years.

For further information, or to arrange for an interview, contact:

Joseph F. Castrilli, CELA Counsel - 416-960-2284, ext. 218; castrillij@sympatico.ca

Fe de Leon, CELA Senior Researcher - 416-960-2284, ext. 223 or (416) 624-6758 (cell); deleonf@cela.ca

Mary Richardson, Crooked Creek Conservancy Society of Athabasca – 780-675-3144; maryr@athabascau.ca

Sandra Madray, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba – (204) 256-9390; madray@mts.net

Anna Tilman, Vice President, International Institute of Concern for Public Health – (905) 841-0095; annatilman@sympatico.ca

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