Great Lakes, Asbestos, Nanotechnology and Toxics Use Reduction

CELA Bulletin 68: 3-October-2008 Periodic E-News from the Canadian Environmental Law Association In this issue:

  • Pledge for a Toxics-Free Great Lakes
  • Ban Asbestos Canada Surveys Federal Candidates
  • Public Forum: Nanotechnology, No Small Matter - Toronto, October 15th
  • Summary of CELA's Response to Ontario's Proposals for Toxics Reduction

Environmental Groups Challenge Federal Leaders to Sign Pledge for a Toxics-Free Great Lakes  CELA, Ecojustice and Great Lakes United have asked all federal party leaders to pledge their support to eliminate persistent toxic substances in the Great Lakes. The pledge refocuses attention on the Great Lakes to ensure that Canada upholds commitments made in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Canada-Ontario Agreement. It also calls for a Great Lakes Clean Water Infrastructure Fund. The pledge follows recent actions in the US to invest in cleaning up contaminated sediment and restoring habitat and the commitment from Barack Obama of $5 billion for Great Lakes cleanup. View media release, pledge and backgrounder on-line. Check with Great Lakes United to track who has signed the pledge. Ban Asbestos Canada Polls Federal Candidates Canada has ratified the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent which protects human health and the environment by controlling international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides. The Convention's expert scientific body recommends inlcuding chrysotile asbestos among the hazardous chemicals requiring prior informed consent before being exported. Canada, which exports 95% of its chrysotile asbestos to developing countries, blocked this recommendation in 2006.  Convention participants will consider it again on October 27th.  Ban Asbestos Canada, of which CELA is a member, is polling federal candidates on their support for listing asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention, if they support the World Health Organization call for a ban on all forms of asbestos and if they support mandatory reporting by physicians and employers of all asbestos-related disease. For more information, please contact:Fe de Leon, 416-960-2284 ext. 223 deleonf@cela.caBan Asbestos Canada, CELA and CIELAP to Co-Sponsor Public Forum on Nanotechnology  All are welcome to attend "Nanotechnology - No Small Matter" at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts on October 15th in Toronto. Panelists will include Chris Metcalfe, Professor, Environmental and Resource Studies and Director, Institue of  Watershed  Science, Trent University, Trina Foster, Program Director and coordinator of the Council of Canadian Academies Report of the Expert Panel on Nanotechnology and Susan Holtz, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy. For more information and to download flyer in PDF. Summary of CELA's Submissions on MOE Discussion Paper - Creating Ontario's Toxics Reduction Strategy In late August 2008, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released for comment a Discussion Paper on its proposed toxics reduction strategy. The MOE Strategy (consultation deadline, October 11th) has three components:

  • new legislation,
  • capacity building, and
  • support for facilities to reduce toxics.

The legislative component of the strategy addresses:

  1. New requirements for toxics materials: via accounting, toxics use reduction plans, reporting, and public disclosure.
  2. Identifying the regulated community: through designated lists of toxic substances, thresholds for the application of the requirements, and phasing.
  3. Addressing toxics in consumer products: via restrictions on toxics in products, and public disclosure of toxic contents in products. 
  4. Creating a governance model: with MOE to ensure compliance, and a new external body to deliver technical and scientific support on toxics reduction, train and possibly certify toxics reduction planners, and provide education and outreach.

Building on our own Report and Model Bill on toxics use reduction, also released in August 2008, CELA filed with MOE in late September a 28-page submission, including 17 recommendations on the Discussion Paper. CELA is supportive of the overall intent of the proposals laid out in the Discussion Paper but we are advocating improvements in several areas. Given that Ontario is one of the top dischargers of toxic substances in North America and the number one discharger in Canada, CELA has concerns about what the MOE Discussion Paper is silent or ambiguous about, as well as what appear to be aspects of the initiative that are too narrow, limited, or will be implemented too slowly. The CELA submissions make recommendations in two areas. Improvements to what MOE does propose to address in the new law by:

  • broadening the scope of the regulated community by increasing the number of chemicals covered by the law;
  • simplifying the number of schedules of chemicals and firming up the phasing of the law;
  • reducing thresholds for application of the law, and increasing the number of sectors covered by the law;
  • clarifying the application of the law to consumer products; and
  • improving toxics reduction planning requirements.

Matters not addressed in the Discussion Paper that are critical to the success of a toxics reduction law include:

  • introducing a regime of substitution of safer alternatives;
  • establishing reduction targets;
  • facilitating municipal by-laws;
  • including a financial engine to ensure the government will have adequate resources to implement the law;
  • improving the role of the public;
  • providing technical assistance to employees; and 
  • clarifying the law’s purposes.

For more information, please contact: Joe Castrilli, 416-960-2284 ext. 218