Media Release

Environmental organizations issue criticism of Federal government for refusal to phase out cancer causing substances

Sep 03 2008

Toronto – Environmental organizations including the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba filed comments today with the federal government strongly criticizing the government’s proposed approach to manage cancer causing substances found to be toxic under federal law.  The government proposals lack elimination and prevention strategies on cancer causing substances and other toxic substances. “The government proposal to manage some of the worst chemicals in commerce in Canada is extremely weak,” stated Fe de Leon, researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “These chemicals, the subject of comments due today under a federal consultation, are the worst of the worst. These are the chemicals that need the strongest possible controls by Canada.”  Examples of high priority substances which were reviewed under a federal science-based process, and their current uses include:

  • naphthalene - used in driveway sealants, petroleum sector, paints, stains, coatings, wig glue, moth balls,
  • catechol - used in photographic developer, antioxidants in electroplating baths, and a waste in the black liquor from pulp mills that may be spread on roads  
  • hydroquinone - used in manicure preparations and hair dyes, paints, varnishes, motor oil and fuels,
  • propylene oxide - used in production of polyether polyols for polyurethane foam, food fumigant and food packaging, air craft de-icers, textile and plastic industries, strippers, and
  • isomers of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) - used in production of polyurethane foam for pillows, mattresses, etc., as well as sealant, textile application

(For more information, see Backgrounder in Media Release PDF below) For the 9 substances that the Federal government has assessed as being toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the government proposes only to require that industry interested in new uses notify the government of these uses. For other toxic substances, the government has simply proposed regulations that focus on reducing the releases of these toxic substances to the environment.  No health prevention actions have been proposed.  “The federal government proposals to manage these chemicals are neither preventive nor protective for Canadians,” states Fe de Leon. “Canadians will continue to be exposed to cancer causing substances in the everyday products we use, in our food, in our air and in our water.  We are giving industry a free pass to continue with business as usual.” When Canada completed its leading edge categorization process in September 2006 to identify substances for priority assessments, environmental organizations had high expectations that the government would follow-up with stringent regulatory action.  The Chemicals Management Plan released in December 2006 to outline the government’s plan on toxic substances was received by the health and environmental community with skepticism and a glimmer of hope.  The groups now doubt that the plan will make any meaningful difference in protecting our health and the environment. “We are especially upset with the government continuing to allow carcinogens as food additives and in paper, especially food packaging,” said Delores Broten of Reach for Unbleached. “All the risk management science in the world isn’t going to change the fact that it is an unnecessary risk to people, and to all the critters in the environment which are exposed to the waste through garbage and sludge. Why are we allowing this?” “What is needed instead is a truly preventive approach for these highly hazardous chemicals.  The science suggests that a phase out and preventive strategy for these substance is appropriate.  The government should be aiming to eliminate all uses for these chemicals.  Safer alternatives are available and the serious ongoing health and environmental risks from their continued use is completely unnecessary,” stated Sandra Madray, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba. -30- For more information, contact: Fe de Leon, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 416-960-2284 ext. 223 Sandra Madray, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba, 204 -256-9390 Delores Broten, Reach for Unbleached, 250-339-6117 Anna Tilman, STORM Coalition, 905-841-0095 Also visit: Government assessment and management documents at  http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/ ; and Non-governmental organization reports at http://www.cen-rce.org/NewOneRCEN/csr.html

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