Summary report of the Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council Meeting, May 25-26, 2017

  • Co-chairs:
    • Jacqueline Gonçalves (Director General, Science and Risk Assessment Directorate, Environment and Climate Change Canada [ECCC])
    • Andrew Beck (Director, Risk Management Bureau, Health Canada [HC]), on behalf of David Morin (Director General, Safe Environments Directorate, HC) (Absent)
    • Marc D’Iorio (Director General, Industrial Sectors, Chemicals and Waste Directorate, ECCC)
  • Council members present:
    • Aleksandra Pogoda
    • Amardeep Khosla
    • Andy Dabydeen
    • Anne Rochon Ford
    • Barb MacKinnon
    • Curtis Scurr
    • Dr. Donald Spady
    • Dr. Elaine MacDonald
    • Dr. Elizabeth Nielsen
    • Eric Loring
    • Fe de Leon
    • Joshua McNeely
    • Justyna Laurie-Lean
    • Muhannad Malas
    • Sandra Madray
    • Scott Thurlow
    • Shannon Coombs
    • Shelagh Kerr
    • Yasmin Tarmohamed
  • Council members absent:
    • Angie Clark
    • Beta Montemayor
    • Gary LeRoux
    • Philippe Cantin
       
  • Observers:
    • Liz Smith (New Brunswick Lung Association and Canadian Network for Human Health and the Environment)
    • Meg Sears (Prevent Cancer Now)
    • Sheila Cole (Nova Scotia Environmental Health Network)
       
  • Government officials present:
    • ECCC:
      • Brad, Fisher
      • Bryan Stephens
      • David Beck
      • Gwen Goodier
      • Heather Birchard
      • Jake Sanderson
      • Nicole Davidson
      • Ora Artzy
      • Shannon Castellarin
      • Souad El Ouakfaoui
      • Xin Gao
         
    • HC:
      • Alexandra Halkett
      • Andrew Beck
      • Angelika Zidek
      • Ann Charboneau
      • Chad Beddie
      • Christine Norman
      • Jennifer Walter
      • Louise Hayes
      • Margaret Moore
      • Mark Barlow
      • Maya Berci
      • Suzanne Leppinen
         
    • Guest presenter:
      • Susan Galley, Quantitative Research, EKOS

Opening remarks

The Co-chairs (the Chairs) welcomed the members of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) Stakeholder Advisory Council (SAC), and introduced the observers present.  The Chairs provided an overview of the agenda and reviewed several stakeholder engagement activities that had taken place since the last meeting.

Agenda item 1 – CMP advisory bodies engagement initiatives

Government officials provided an overview of advisory committees under the third phase of the CMP, and a status update for each.

SAC Sub-group on Communications – path forward

The SAC Sub-group on Communications (the sub-group) was created in June 2016 with the objective to identify best practices on how to communicate CMP to stakeholders and the public and to provide suggestions on existing and new tools and communications products.

The sub-group held six teleconference meetings from June to November 2016.  The sub-group reported and discussed their findings and recommendations in plenary at the November 2016 CMP SAC meeting. The main message government received was that current communication tools are good; however there is a need to build and maintain a broader plan.

Government officials acknowledged that the sub-group discussions were valuable and resource intensive. A “what we heard” report from the sub-group was shared highlighting key recommendations: The need to focus on two streams of communications (general CMP information and chemical specific information with risk mitigation actions);  the importance of tailoring communications to suit a broader scope of stakeholders (with an emphasis on vulnerable populations) and varying information needs;  the importance of partnerships and collaboration as well as the mutual responsibility to fill in communications gaps; and the value of engaging external expertise such as marketing experts.

In response to the recommendations from June 2016, the proposed path forward included keeping an active focus on communications as part of regular business at the SAC.  The sub-group will continue on an ad hoc basis and communications will be a standing agenda item at SAC.  This topic is to be integrated into post 2020 planning.  The path forward also underscored collaborating with stakeholders and partners to tailor tools and messaging and to tap into the expertise of partners who have a rich history in communicating complex information. New public outreach to Canadians to educate on the potential risks and safer use of chemicals and to tell the CMP story in a way that is relevant to the public was also highlighted.

There was support from SAC members for the proposed path forward.  Several comments encouraged government to comprehensively define vulnerable populations (for example, literacy levels, illness) and to be mindful of lack of resources as a factor in being able to change behaviour.  Any messages conveyed should be relatable/humanized (for example, safer alternatives to certain substances/products, reading, understanding, and cross referencing of product ingredients/labels).  Members reiterated creating partnerships when possible and building on what other health authorities are doing as this will create a deeper understanding of the context.

Action items

  • Government to use sub-group on an ad-hoc basis going forward

CMP Science Committee

An update on the CMP Science Committee (the Committee) was provided by government officials.  The Committee was formed in 2013 with the goal of providing support for and ensuring a strong science foundation in CMP work. 

The Committee is currently being renewed for its second 3-year term.  Membership criteria have been adjusted and refined based on CMP and post-2020 needs moving forward, and on experiences from the last tenure of the group. The Government is currently reviewing applications which will be completed shortly. Once appointed, members will attend an orientation session, and shortly after, can begin to prepare for the first meeting under the second term which is planned for November 2017.

It was noted in the results of the review of the Committee (conducted in 2016) that ad hoc members are very valuable. Materials from previous meetings are available online.

Action items

  • Government to distribute materials and links to relevant documents (meeting records from past Committee meetings)
  • The Committee updates will be added to SAC meeting agenda as a standing item
  • Explore options for SAC members to have observer option during Committee meetings

Agenda item 2 – Health Canada’s public opinion research and social marketing campaign

Susan Galley, the Senior Vice President of EKOS, presented the results of a public opinion research (POR) survey on chemicals management and environmental health issues that they conducted for HC in 2017.  Ms. Galley was the lead researcher for the POR, which included an online survey of 2,100 Canadians 18 years or older, as well as 9 focus groups across Canada totalling 63 participants.  The goal is to better understand Canadian’s information needs, levels of awareness and concern, and factors that motivates or prevents them from taking action to protect their health from substances of concern. The research findings are being used by HC and partners to shape a new social marketing campaign.

General findings for the survey results collected indicated that most Canadians (3 in 4) feel that their own or their family’s health is impacted by common environmental factors in and around their home.  They are most concerned about: air quality (34%); water quality (29%); mould/humidity (26%); pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides (25%); and household chemicals (19%). Most Canadians agreed, however, that it is possible to take steps to lower these risks and that how we use, misuse or dispose of household products is a large part of the risk posed to health.  When drilling down in the focus groups, Canadians made a strong connection between the environment and how it can have a direct impact on human health. They are motivated to take action most significantly by both their health and the health of their family, and the environment. A number of barriers to taking action were also identified, such as steps being too expensive, information that is confusing or too technical, or a lack of control (for example, renting). 

When seeking information, Canadians most prefer sources such as search engines, the HC Website, product labels and health professionals. There is a general interest for a wide array of communication products with a layered approach in complexity to suit the needs of various audiences.  Examples of this could include simple to use resources such as checklists with tips, infographics or short videos, as well as access to more specific or technical information. Overall, Canadians would also benefit from a stronger understanding of regulatory processes in communication materials that avoid jargon and highly technical aspects.

The presentation generated much interest and discussion among SAC members. There were several questions and comments, most significantly regarding survey methodology (for example, demographics of participants) and design (for example, focus on behaviour change as end goal, why certain products/substances were included in the study) and how vulnerable populations were considered.

Action items

  • None identified

Agenda item 3 – the risk management process: from instrument selection to evaluation of performance

Government officials provided an overview of the risk management (RM) process using a number of case studies as examples. In brief, RM begins with setting objectives based on the risks identified in the risk assessment (RA) (and are also communicated in the RM scope and approach documents).  Instruments are selected after being reviewed against several considerations for their capacity to achieve the objective(s), and performance measurement is taken based on the objectives to determine when they are achieved, or if instrument-adjustments should be made.

RM instruments may come from a variety of enabling legislation, and may have multiple objectives.  Instruments can be grouped into a number of categories including voluntary approaches (for example, labelling, guidelines and codes practice), joint cooperation between different levels of government, market-based (for example, financial incentives), and regulatory.  Several options are available under each category and can have varying degrees of stringency.  Instruments are evaluated on several socio-economic factors and others; such as, effectiveness, efficiency, and compatibility with other RM instruments to determine the optimal approach.

Input from SAC members was sought on opportunities to inform on various components in the RM process, instrument selection and performance measurement.

Members suggested indicating which populations or groups an instrument is meant to protect, and which groups may be indirectly affected, especially noting vulnerable populations (accounting for those who have chemical sensitivities beyond the threshold volumes that are based on healthy individuals).

Members noted that we cannot always be sure of the role of a chemical, and a chemical may be used in a variety of ways, and this should also be considered in developing RM options. As such, it was also expressed that it would be useful to share information on considerations taken to select an instrument and to have an easy way to show an instrument’s performance, progress towards the objective as well as a confidence and effectiveness rating.

Action items

  • Share information on factors considered during instrument selection before the next SAC meeting
  • Continue to share results of instrument performance before the next SAC meeting

Agenda item 4 – CMP post 2020 themes

A brief presentation was provided by Government on ‘‘what we heard’’ at the CMP post 2020 brainstorming sessions at the multi-stakeholder workshop that took place May 24, 2017.  Stakeholders had been surveyed in advance and then discussed 6 topics or themes from those they had identified in the surveys in considering chemicals management beyond 2020.  For each theme, the interactive workshop session focused on discussing 4 specific questions/areas: desired outcomes, potential challenges, available options, and roles in developing plans/strategies.  These topics and additional issues will be further explored during workshops, meetings, and consultations to be organized over the next several months.

SAC members provided positive feedback overall and noted that additional discussions would be useful to cover additional topics. Members expressed concern regarding the excessive use of chemicals in the global environment.

Action items

  • Government to present a “what we heard” report, and bring this topic back for discussion at the fall multi-stakeholder workshop.

Agenda item 5 – identification of risk assessment priorities

Government provided an overview of the overall processes for the identification of RA priorities (IRAP) as well as the results following reviews conducted in 2015 and 2016 which were published in spring 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The prioritization approach encompasses 3 general steps: acquisition of initial data through the use of several information feeder mechanisms, evaluation of the information in the context from which it is provided, and action recommendations for further work as applicable.  The objective of the approach is to conduct a regular scan of new information, which takes into consideration both hazard and exposure metrics, and provide updates on potential priorities for future assessment.

Information mechanisms can include among others: emerging science and monitoring, data from mandatory surveys as well as from other governments or organizations, results of previous assessment activities, and flags from within the New Substances Program.  Recommended actions typically include: collect further data, conduct a RA, or conduct no further work.

Some challenges identified include difficulty identifying uses of substances in products/manufactured items as well as a lack of readily available Canadian exposure data.  It was noted however that one of the advantages of the IRAP process is that it is not prescriptive.  The IRAP process and the data sources can evolve and with subsequent iterations.  Members were asked if they have any input for ECCC/HC either suggestions for improvement or for additional data sources to use as exposure or hazard flags.

SAC members expressed that getting accurate scientific data can often be a challenge and inquired on the mechanisms in place to obtain and track new data.  It was noted that this work may also benefit from an external peer review. Some members suggested the use of data from Canada’s National Air Pollutant Surveillance (NAPS) Network and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) as potential sources.  It was also noted that industry can play a role in addressing identified information needs.

Action items

  • None identified

Agenda item 6 – non-toxic framework

Government officials provided an overview and update of a non-toxic framework that was in development and sought feedback from members.  The non-toxic framework aims to allow for the tracking, and monitoring of high-hazard substances that may have a potential of becoming toxic with a change in exposure or use.  Information collected on exposure and use profiles of high hazard substances will inform program areas to determine what action is required for risk mitigation.  Several considerations are taken into account including persistence, bioaccumulation, historical and international uses, as well as environmental fate.

The non-toxic framework aims for the implementation of follow-up activities/actions that have independent cycles and some consultation opportunities.  Activities can include mandatory information gathering surveys, Significant New Activity regulation, planned monitoring and surveillance, and several others.

Analysis under the non-toxic framework will continue to be conducted for substances and will be updated as new information is received.  Results from the non-toxic framework analysis are communicated in the Canada Gazette and within the substance screening assessments published on the Canada.ca Website.  

In the members’ group open discussion, it was expressed that some wording within section 64 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) may require additional clarifications in certain RM and scientific contexts.  Use of language such as “enter or may enter” “have or may have”, or “constitute or may constitute” is useful in many ways; however, it is often necessary to define exact conditions and parameters to better facilitate scientific work.  It was also suggested that international intelligence be added as a source of information within this framework.  Suggestions were made for this framework to have a title that more represents and describes what the framework entails.

Members encourage Government officials to change the name of this framework and were invited to provide suggestions.

Action items

  • Add this item to the forward agenda for further discussion

Agenda item 7 – discussion of the SAC forward agenda topics

Members were asked for ideas for topics to add to the forward agenda. A number of suggestions were provided, including:

  • Update on activities relating to nanomaterials that were presented at the fall 2016 SAC meeting (Chairs could provide a brief update at fall SAC meeting)  
  • Enforcement of regulations, how does it work
  • CEPA 1999 review update
  • RM actions – update focused on the third phase of the CMP
  • Cumulative effects of chemicals  
  • RM process- from instrument selection to evaluation of performance - provide detailed explanation of use of instruments with examples
  • Non-toxic framework

Closing remarks

The Chairs thanked SAC members for the valuable discussions and for their active participation. Members were also encouraged to reach out to the CMP SAC secretariat or staff at any time.

The next meeting is proposed for November 2017, with a half-day information session scheduled a day in advance.

SAC information session – summary (May 26, 2017)

The SAC information sessions are a series of presentations to be completed during the SAC mandate on key aspects of the CMP.  Government officials provided an information session for SAC members on May 26, 2017 which included an overview or 101 of the RA and RM activities.

Members expressed an interest in continuing to have the sessions to expand their knowledge of specific CMP topics and indicated that it would be valuable to increase the sessions to a full day to ensure more detailed discussions and permit the use of cases studies.

Action items:

  • Provide the Bisphenol A (BPA) case study to SAC members.
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