Media Release

Federal Deadline on Toxics: Time to Ban the Worst; Regulate the Rest

Sep 13 2006

Toronto – Today is the day. After seven years of sifting through and “categorizing” 23,000 chemicals, the federal government has a deadline. It must tell the public how many chemicals, and which ones, are really nasty. The public needs to know how it intends to deal with them. We now know there are at least 4000 bad actors. Many of these chemicals are in common use in industrial and manufacturing processes, including in products. “Among the list of 4000, about 400 are the most toxic – they are persistent, bioaccumulative and inherently toxic. It is time to ban the worst and regulate the rest, with the goal of replacing them with safe substitutes,” said Hugh Benevides, Counsel of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).  “Of highest priority are chemicals that are commonly found in consumer products and that create exposure risks inside our homes. Children are particularly vulnerable to such exposures. They should be at the centre of decision-making on eliminating toxic exposures and finding safer alternatives.”  The federal government is empowered by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to regulate toxic chemicals. Its track record in making use of its powers to protect public health and the environment is not impressive. After fifteen years, only 79 chemicals have been declared “toxic” under this law and even fewer have been regulated. Toxic exposures of these and thousands of other chemicals continue in the environment and multiple consumer products.   The federal government has met today’s deadline only in terms of coming up with a list. It has not come up with an action plan for addressing these chemicals. “The analysis paralysis of the past must stop,” said Fe de Leon, Researcher of CELA. “We want this to process to have meaningful results. This 7-year effort places Canada at a crossroads in its approach to assessing and managing dangerous substances in this country.  Industry has had ample time to produce data on these substances. We need a strong action plan to put in place immediate strategies to phase-down and phase-out the worst chemicals, and an aggressive strategy to regulate the rest.“In the coming weeks CELA will analyze and report on the results of the government’s chemical categorization exercise.- 30 -For more information: Fe de Leon, Researcher 416-906-2284 ext. 223 deleonf@lao.on.ca