Track 1 substance: virtual elimination from the environment

A substance that meets all four criteria outlined in Table 1, in other words, that is persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic and primarily the result of human activity, will be targeted for virtual elimination from the environment (Track 1 substance). This objective will be achieved by addressing sources of release to the environment or by removing or managing the substance if it is already in the environment.

Table 1 -- Criteria for the Selection of Substances for Track 1
Bioaccumulation(3) Toxicity(4) Predominantly anthropogenic(5)
Air ≥ 2 days(2) BAF ≥ 5,000 or CEPA-toxic or CEPA-toxic Equivalent Concentration in environment largely resulting from human activity
Water ≥ 182 days BCF ≥ 5,000 or    
Sediment ≥ 365 days log Kow ≥ 5.0    
Soil ≥ 182 days      
  ≥ greater than or equal to
  1. A substance is considered persistent when the criterion is met in any one medium.
  2. A substance may be considered as persistent in air if it is shown to be subject to atmospheric transport to remote regions such as the Arctic.
  3. Bioaccumulation Factors (BAF) are preferred over Bioconcentration Factors (BCF); in the absence of BAF or BCF data, the octanol-water partition coefficient (log Kow) may be used.
  4. A substance is considered toxic if it meets or is equivalent to the definition of "toxic" found in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), as determined through a systematic, risk-based assessment. CEPA states: "a substance is toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that (a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity; (b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or (c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."
  5. On the basis of expert judgment, the concentration of the substance in any environmental medium is due largely to the quantities of the substance used or released as a result of human activity relative to contributions from natural sources. Elements and naturally occurring inorganic compounds are not candidates for virtual elimination from the environment.

Pollution prevention strategies will be used to prevent the measurable release of a Track 1 substance from domestic sources. A Track 1 substance that cannot be managed successfully throughout its life cycle will be targeted for phase-out of generation and uses. Through bilateral or multilateral agreements, the federal government will work to eliminate Track 1 substances that originate from sources outside the country.

Remediation may be undertaken when a Track 1 substance is already in the environment. For sites under federal jurisdiction that are contaminated by a Track 1 substance, management plans will consider the elimination of that substance, based on an analysis of risks, costs and benefits. Where the benefits to the ecosystem or to human health of removing the substance outweigh clean-up costs -- including the possibility of further environmental degradation -- remediation will be considered. Otherwise, management strategies will focus on minimizing exposure and the site's potential risks.

The federal government will identify Track 1 substances proposed for virtual elimination from the environment. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment, with a fixed period of time to present scientific evidence objecting to or supporting a substance's selection, that is, whether it satisfies the criteria. The federal government will render a final, public decision after reviewing all the evidence.

The onus will be on those who generate or use a Track 1 substance to demonstrate that the substance will not be released into the environment in measurable concentrations at any point in its life cycle. Measurable release limits will be developed as appropriate for a Track 1 substance to allow verification that no measurable release has been achieved and to allow enforcement of any regulations that may be developed. Limits will be based on the lowest concentration of a substance that can be accurately detected and quantified using sensitive but routine analytical methods. These limits will be established during the development of management strategies as part of consultations with stakeholders.

The objective of virtual elimination of a Track 1 substance from the environment does not mean chasing down that substance to its last molecule. Common sense will apply as progress toward the substance's elimination is monitored. The ultimate objective of eliminating a Track 1 substance from the environment is set irrespective of socio-economic factors. Nevertheless, management plans such as targets and schedules to achieve that long-term objective will be based on analyses of environmental and human health risks as well as social, economic and technical considerations.

The presence of a Track 1 substance in the environment will be monitored to ensure that management plans are achieving the objective of virtual elimination and to assess the need for additional action.

The persistence and bioaccumulation criteria used to identify Track 1 substances can only be applied to chemical substances. Thus, while a chemical substance produced by organisms through biotechnology processes may be considered for Track 1, the organisms themselves will not.

Where a Track 1 substance results from the degradation or transformation of a parent substance in the environment, the parent substance may also be considered for Track 1.

Naturally occurring substances, elements or radionuclides are not candidates for Track 1. However, when warranted, a natural substance that is used or released as a result of human activity may be targeted for reduction to naturally occurring levels under Track 2.

This policy does not apply to pharmaceuticals when used for purposes for which they were approved under the Food and Drugs Act. It does apply to those pharmaceuticals, their by-products or wastes that are of concern because of their release to the environment.

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