In an effort to counteract the environmental platforms of the opposition parties (especially the Liberals and new leader Stephan Dion –a former federal environment minister) the Conservatives have announced a new plan that targets toxic chemicals. The plan includes $300 million to assess 200 potentially dangerous substances on the Canadian market, culled from a list of 23,000 chemicals that the government studied over a seven-year period (completed in September). The government has pledged to regulate the worst chemicals within three years.
The initiative arises from scientific concern about human health effects, including cancer and infertility, that may be linked to exposure to industrial chemicals many of which are found in everyday consumer products.
“The chemicals management plan we are unveiling today will make Canada a world leader in assessing and regulating chemicals that are used in thousands of industrial and consumer products,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the news conference.
The timelines of this initiative contrast with the goals of the Clean Air Act, which aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Every three months, data on 15 to 30 substances will be released to industry and health groups for a six-month comment period, and in a reverse onus, industry will be challenged to provide new information about the safety of the substances.
There will be stricter regulation of chemicals in food, safer disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal-care products, better labelling of cosmetics ingredients and closer monitoring of possible health impacts. Hexachlorobutadiene, for example — a carcinogenic solvent — is slated for virtual elimination under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act — the first example of this legislative power being used.
The forthcoming February/March edition of HazMat Management magazine will contain an article evaluating the new program. Visit www.hazmatmag.com