Government of Canada publishes the draft State of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Report


In 2021, the Government of Canada announced its intention to move forward with activities to address the broad class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in recognition of scientific evidence that suggests that all PFAS may be associated with environmental and/or human health effects.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Canada

PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 substances and are found nearly everywhere in the environment, including in the air, groundwater, oceans, lakes, rivers, and soils, as well as in wastewater, landfill leachate, sewage sludge, and contaminated sites worldwide. Certain PFAS have been detected in humans and wildlife globally, and a range of adverse health effects have been reported for well-studied PFAS.

A class-based approach for PFAS is appropriate given:

  • The large number of different PFAS.
  • The long timeframe that would be required to address all of these substances individually.
  • The growing body of scientific evidence suggesting concerns for human health and the environment for well-studied PFAS are more broadly applicable across the class.
  • The expectation that combined exposures to multiple PFAS will increase the likelihood of detrimental impacts.

This approach addresses situations where exposure occurs to multiple PFAS at the same time by considering the potential for cumulative effects, and will enable actions to be taken that avoid regrettable substitutions. Applying a precautionary approach means that industry should take note of the results of this report, and take action to limit consumer and environmental exposure to PFAS.

Canada has not waited for this report to act. Following assessment activities completed in 2006 and 2012, the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, and import of three subgroups of PFAS have been prohibited in Canada, with limited exemptions, through the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012.

The Government is also taking action to protect firefighters, reduce Canadians’ exposure to PFAS in drinking water, and manage PFAS in biosolids. Activities beyond regulatory compliance are being undertaken under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to reduce releases of these substances into the Great Lakes. In addition, Canada has nominated the long chain perfluorocarboxylic acids group for addition to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Research and monitoring activities are ongoing to build on available science pertaining to the environmental and human exposure levels and impacts of PFAS. Environmental and human monitoring activities include continued biomonitoring of PFAS as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey, and other monitoring, such as the Canadian Total Diet Study environmental monitoring, and specific firefighter initiatives. Additionally, efforts to gather information from industry to better understand Canadians’ exposure to PFAS and studying the possible addition of certain PFAS to the National Pollutant Release Inventory are underway.

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