Chemicals Management Plan background

Chemical substances are everywhere around us--in the environment, our food, clothes, and even our bodies. Many of these chemical substances are used to improve the quality of our lives. Most of these chemical substances are not harmful to the environment or human health. However, some have the potential to cause harm, in certain doses, and should only be used when the risks are appropriately managed.

The Government of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan will improve the degree of protection against hazardous chemicals. It includes a number of new, proactive measures to make sure that chemical substances are managed properly.

Taking action now will significantly reduce future costs associated with water treatment, clean-up of contaminated sites, and treating illnesses related to chemical exposure. It will improve Canadians' quality of life, and better protect our environment.

This plan will also improve the conditions for business in Canada by ensuring a level playing field and a predictable, science-based regulatory regime.

This new plan will build on Canada's position as a global leader in the safe management of chemical substances and products. It will marshal new and better science to improve the assessment and mitigation of risks, and it will provide Canadian families with better information about the safe use and disposal of a range of everyday products.

Canada's Chemicals Management Plan includes:

Class Assessment Approach for Aromatic Azo- and Benzidine-based Substances

The Government of Canada will be taking action on approximately 350 substances using a chemical class assessment approach. These substances include aromatic azo- and benzidine-based substances that may degrade to produce certain aromatic amines or benzidines, and the corresponding aromatic amines or benzidines produced. These substances possess certain structural features that may lead to their degradation in the environment and/or in organisms, yielding aromatic amines or aromatic benzidines that may be of concern to human health or the environment.

Regulations and enforcement

The Government of Canada will be taking immediate action on five substance categories confirmed to be harmful to the environment and to human health in the long run, moving toward prohibiting most uses. Industry recognizes the necessity of these actions and in many cases has been moving to find solutions. The Government of Canada will also be establishing the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) and adding the first substances to that list.

Challenge to industry

Categorization identified 200 chemical substances that are potentially harmful to human health or the environment that represent the highest priorities for risk assessment and appropriate controls. The Government of Canada will use existing tools and regulations to challenge industry to provide new information about how it is managing these 200 chemical substances.

These chemical substances will be assessed within a three year timeframe.  Every three months groups of 15-30 substances will be released to industry and stakeholder groups for a 6-month comment period.  The Government of Canada will then decide what actions are taken.

Restrictions on re-introduction and new uses

In December 2006, the Government of Canada will begin issuing Significant New Activity requirements under CEPA 1999. These will affect approximately 150 high-hazard chemical substances not currently in use in Canada. These notices mean industry must provide data to be reviewed by Environment Canada and Health Canada before any of the chemical substances on the list can be re-introduced into Canada.

In early 2007, Significant New Activity provisions under CEPA 1999 will be applied to an additional 150 chemical substances that are highly hazardous to humans. While current uses of these substances are responsibly managed, this will ensure that any new or increased use of these substances is not allowed without informed assessment and appropriate controls.

Rapid screening of lower risk chemical substances

Categorization identified a number of lower risk substances that are unlikely, given current evidence, to pose a threat to the environment. These will be screened quickly, and the results will be released for public comment in the Spring of 2007.

Our scientists believe that a number of substances, while meeting the categorization criteria, are not likely to pose a risk to the environment in the amounts at which they are found. The accelerated screening approach will apply a worst-case scenario to determine whether further assessment is necessary.

Accelerated re-evaluation of older pesticides

The Government of Canada will accelerate the re-evaluation of the remaining 200 older pesticides, targeted for completion by 2009. These re-evaluations are being conducted to determine if these pesticides meet today's health and environmental standards. Review and registration of new and reduced-risk pesticides, to potentially replace older pesticides removed from the market following a re-evaluation decision, will also be done more quickly.

Mandatory ingredient labelling of cosmetics

On November 16, 2006, the Government of Canada brought into force amended Cosmetic Regulations requiring ingredient labelling on all cosmetic products.

Regulations to address environmental risks posed by pharmaceuticals and personal care products

The Government of Canada intends to work closely with stakeholders to complete the health and environmental assessments of more than 9,000 substances used in products regulated under the Food & Drugs Act. In addition the Government of Canada will work with stakeholders to promote best practices for the proper disposal of Food & Drugs Act products, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, to reduce the burden on the environment.

Enhanced management of environmental contaminants in food

Canada's food supply is already one of the safest in the world. However, Canadians are increasingly concerned about chemical contaminants. The regulation of contaminants under the Food and Drug Regulations will be strengthened. Actions will be taken to identify and reduce these contaminants in the food supply and to minimize potential health impacts on Canadians. Consumers will be provided with up-to-date food safety information to help them make healthy food choices for themselves and their families.

Monitoring, surveillance and research

Working with Statistics Canada, provinces and territories and other agencies, Canada's Government will build a monitoring and surveillance regime that will track our exposure to toxic substances.

Sensitive species will be observed through an ecological monitoring program which will also serve as an "early warning" system for harmful substances in the ecosystem.

In addition to identifying emerging substances that warrant attention, the program will ensure that we can measure progress on our actions.

Good stewardship of chemical substances

The Government of Canada is taking immediate and decisive action to address substances of high concern, and moving to reassure Canadians about substances that are of little concern.  There are also more chemical substances that have been identified as requiring further assessment in future years. Canada's Government is committed to assessing all of the substances that have been identified through categorization via successive rounds of assessment and, where necessary, regulatory action. Continuously improved information on the uses and effects of chemical substances will help establish these next rounds of priorities. This plan includes the investments needed to get this work started, and to keep Canada at the forefront of chemicals management globally.

Managing chemicals safely also relies on strong stewardship from Canadian industry. The government will work with key sectors to develop and codify comprehensive sound management practices that will protect Canadians and the environment. The federal government will also work to ensure that information about chemical substances, their hazards and also practices for their safe management is available to Canadians.

The Government of Canada will improve product labelling programs as well as the way we deal with imported products which contain chemical substances prohibited in Canada. The Government of Canada will also look at ways to enhance its current monitoring of consumer products.

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