Summary report November 21, 2013 - Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council

Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council Meeting

  • Co-Chairs:
    • David Morin (Director General, Science and Risk Assessment, Environment Canada [EC])
    • Amanda Jane (AJ) Preece (Director General, Safe Environments Directorate, Health Canada [HC])
  • Council members present:
    • Susan Abel
    • Andrew Black
    • Dr. Joseph Byers
    • Shannon Coombs
    • Fe de Leon
    • Shelagh Kerr
    • Amardeep Khosla
    • Gordon Lloyd
    • Eric Loring
    • Sandra Madray
    • Jason McLinton (for Karen Proud)
    • Keith Mussar
    • Mary Richardson
    • John Skowronski
    • Dr. Don Spady
    • Dr. Lee Wilson
  • Government officials present:
    • José Audet-Lecouffe (Program Liaison Section, EC)
    • Michelle Bowerman (Manager, Program Liaison, EC)
    • Greg Carreau (Executive Director, Program Development and Engagement Division, EC)
    • Robert Chénier (Director, Ecological Assessment Division, EC)
    • Martine Dumais (Manager, Strategic Analysis, EC)
    • Vincenza Galatone (Executive Director, Chemicals Management Division, EC)
    • Karen Mailhiot (Director, Program Integration Division, EC )
    • Christine Norman (Director, Existing Substances Risk Assessment Bureau, HC)
    • Virginia Poter (Director General, Chemicals Sector, EC)
    • Susan Roe (Manager, Environmental Emergencies, EC)
    • Jody Rosenberger (Head, NPRI Development, EC)
    • Maria Ooi (Head, Biomonitoring, HC)
    • Danielle Schami (Program Development and Engagement, HC)
    • Dr. Harold Schwartz (Manager, Chemical Safety of Traditional Foods, HC)
    • Dr. Constantine Tikhonov (Chief, Surveillance and Risk Analysis, HC)
    • Daniel Wolfish (Director, Risk Management Bureau, HC)
  • Regrets:
    • Bruce Cran
    • Gary Leroux
    • Maggie MacDonald

Opening remarks

Participants were welcomed and changes to membership were announced, Victor Goldbloom has retired and will be replaced by Joseph Byers for the Canadian Institute of Child Health. 

Members were invited to raise outstanding points before starting the meeting. A member highlighted that there remained unanswered questions on nanomaterials from previous meetings and asked whether they would be answered during the current meeting. Co-chairs indicated that Government of Canada officials were meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington today and offered to provide an update on cooperation through the Regulatory Cooperation Council at the next Stakeholder Advisory Council meeting in spring 2014.

Agenda item 1A - Update on the CMP Science committee

An update on the Chemical Management Plan (CMP) Science Committee was provided, including a description of its mandate, reporting structure, membership selection process and results. The goal of the Committee is to increase transparency in the risk assessment process and to augment the breadth of science opinions on assessment approaches. Dates have been set for an orientation session via teleconference (November 26, 2013) and a first face-to-face meeting (February 19-20, 2014) with the ten core members. The Chemical Substances Web site will be updated in December 2013 with the Science Committee's terms of reference and membership list.  A summary report will also be posted following each face-to-face meeting.

Stakeholder Advisory Council members were pleased with the approach and transparency applied for establishing the Science Committee. Questions from Council members included asking whether Science Committee members are familiar with complex adaptive systems and assessing ecological behavior in an ecological setting. In response, government officials indicated that at least three members have a strong environmental background in environmental chemistry and environmental toxicology. Council members emphasized importance of ad hoc members for addressing specific issues.

Clarification was sought about the meaning of "approaches for read across and analogues in chemical risk assessment" as a potential topic for discussion by the Science Committee. It was explained that "read across" is a process for using information for one particular chemical (for example, toxicological data) and applying it to other substances with similar characteristics, with the original substance being the "analogue". Thus discussion among Committee members could include Government approach on use of analogues in human health and ecological assessments.

Council members suggested potential topics for discussion by the Science Committee, such as: the challenge around conducting assessments given data gaps; how to address limited data available on low-level chronic exposure and on mixtures of chemicals; as well as applying the precautionary principle as embedded in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). Government officials took note of these suggested topics and indicated they would share these suggestions with committee members moving forward.  Additionally, government officials responded that low-level exposures are taken into consideration during the ecological and human health risk assessment process and that expertise in weight of evidence and precaution is included among Committee members.

Agenda item 1B - Update on the CMP Progress Report

A draft of the CMP Progress Report was shared to solicit feedback from Council members on its content and format. Government officials recognized the role the Council has played in identifying this initiative as a need and in providing feedback on its direction at the last meeting.

The objectives for this report are to communicate to stakeholders what has taken place in the core program in recent months and what the upcoming activities are. The Report should enhance stakeholder engagement and provide greater predictability for stakeholders. Members were asked to help distribute the Report broadly once it is published in December 2013.

Overall, the Report received a positive response from the members who said it was useful and well laid out. There was interest in seeing more specific timeframes for new substances and the Petroleum Sector Stream Approach, in particular. In addition, it was suggested that further description of risk management initiatives might be useful for future publications.

The Report will be made available on the Chemical Substances Web site and in paper format.

Agenda item 2 - The National Pollutant Release Inventory: Linkages and Integration with CMP

EC officials presented background information on the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), the linkages with CMP and other EC initiatives and the current initiatives for the program. They mentioned that NPRI staff work with the data users and count on them to provide feedback to make improvements to the program. Users can submit proposals for changes and NPRI officials seek continuous improvement. The presenters also reminded the members that NPRI can be used in various ways: for example as an input to risk assessments; as a performance measurement tool for risk management instruments; as a complement to monitoring and to support air quality modeling.

There was a discussion on reporting and accessibility of information in the inventory. There was a question about which company is responsible to report for a specific substance in the situation where companies are reselling the product. Government officials answered that the inventory focuses on releases therefore many companies may report for the same batch of chemicals as it moves through the supply chain, and each would report any releases or disposals that occur at that step. Also, if members are looking for the total releases in a particular province, it is possible to use the online search tool to generate lists of companies and facilities, as well as totals by province.

Council members expressed concerns about fracturing fluids, regarding missing information on the composition of the fracturing mixtures. Government officials clarified that NPRI includes single substances, not mixtures. While the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids may be considered confidential business information, EC is currently collaborating with companies to identify chemicals being used for this purpose in Canada.

Criteria for deleting a substance from the NPRI list were discussed. Members considered it important to keep some substances that were not considered toxic because they could still have environmental and health effects to monitor. Government officials agreed that it is important to be cautious about deleting substances from the list and explained that several factors are considered before deciding to delete a substance from NPRI, for example, whether a substance is still in commerce, being reported to NPRI, etc.

Agenda item 3 - Approaches to Risk Management

HC and EC officials presented an overview of risk management under the CMP. They emphasized that the process is not linear, that it is iterative and ongoing. Government officials also highlighted that risk management follows a life cycle approach with key control points along the way, and follows the principles of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management (evidence-based, the One-for-One Rule, etc.). The intent is to put in place risk management measures that meet health and/or environmental objectives with minimal administrative burden. Consideration of Environmental Performance Agreements (EPAs), Pollution Prevention Planning Notices (P2 Plans), regulations, etc. under CEPA 1999 or other appropriate legislation (for example, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Food and Drugs Act, etc.) allows for the selection of the most appropriate and effective instrument.

Members mentioned that the speed for action by government and that of the industry is very different and it should be considered in the risk management process. The government officials answered that it was considered and that there are a variety of instruments that can be used depending on the goal and the context.

Members expressed concern that the One-for-One Rule might influence the risk management approach and the effectiveness of the instruments. Government officials explained the Rule doesn't forbid the use of regulations and, if required, government officials will not hesitate to use them. A variety of tools are available, some new, some voluntary, and many have proven to be very efficient with minimal burden.

There was a discussion on the use of green chemistry. Members would like to see alternatives encouraged through the risk management process. Government officials answered that the process indirectly leads to the use of alternatives by setting concentration limits, encouraging technological improvements and investments in research, marketing and incentive programs.

Members expressed concern about the administrative burden of regulations on industry as well as the burden in terms of human health and the environment. Government officials replied that Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements provide an assessment of impacts (cost and benefit) of regulations including estimated costs to industry, to government, to human health and the environment, or how such costs can be averted.

Members raised a concern regarding application of the precautionary principle and assumptions underlying the risk management process. For example, members questioned whether decisions under CMP are based on the assumption that the environment and the economy are stable and, if so, whether that is a fair assumption. Decisions are made on the best information available at the time, and risk management is proportional to the risks, taking into consideration uncertainties. In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, evaluation of risk management measures is recommended and will inform the need to refine risk management measures.

Agenda item 4 - Amendments to the Environmental Emergencies Regulations

EC officials provided an overview of the proposed second amendment to the Environmental Emergency Regulations, which included the current status of the Regulations, objectives of the proposed amendments and an update on the preliminary consultation process.

Council members raised questions regarding the protection of wildlife in the Regulations. Government officials answered that there were no provisions for direct protection of wildlife, but that the Regulations do cover some mammals through human health protection provisions.

Members expressed their concerns about the fact that the Regulations are mostly industry-driven and that First Nations may not be sufficiently involved in the consultation process. Government officials responded that Aboriginal groups were contacted through other channels more specialized in engaging First Nations. It was added that the consultations are opened to any and every Canadian.

Members mentioned that electronic consultations provide fewer opportunities for dialogue among stakeholders which can enrich feedback to government. Now more than ever, there is value to "this is what we heard" documents to which stakeholders should also be given the opportunity to respond. Government officials responded that a summary of comments will be posted on the EC website.

Members raised the question as to why the plastic sector was not included. Government officials responded that the plastic sector is implicated but was not identified as one of the six priority sectors. The six priority sectors were identified by their usage of chemical substances.

At the end, the presenters invited members to provide feedback through the website and email address provided.

Agenda item 5 - Monitoring and Surveillance in Aboriginal Communities

  • Part 1: Overview of contaminants initiatives
  • Part 2: First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative
  • Part 3: First Nations Food Nutrition and Environment Study

Government officials from HC's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) provided an overview of their work under the chemical surveillance program with a particular focus on the First Nations Environmental Contaminants Programs (FNECP) and the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study (FNFNES). In partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, FNIHB also presented the approach and recently published findings of the First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative (FNBI), a complement to the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) previously presented to the CMP Stakeholder Advisory Council, and how it relates to the CMP. The three presentations generated many questions from Council members.

General questions related to the use of data, the collection of genetic information, sources of exposure in cases of higher concentration levels than observed among non-First Nations populations through CHMS, and what work is underway to put FNBI data into risk perspective. Presenters explained cultural context for discomfort in communities around biomonitoring, genetic testing, and biobanking. Trust would first need to be built with communities concerning this research. It was agreed no genetic testing would be carried out and samples were returned to communities and destroyed in the presence of Elders. In instances where research shows exceedances and can be linked back, for example, to higher concentrations in certain country foods, advisories can be developed to inform people in affected ecozones. Next steps will include analyzing the data for determining the health risk factors and analyzing the questionnaire to filter out effects of influences such as smoking.

Other questions related to the sources for water tested, whether high levels of mercury and lead were related to proximity to industry as a possible source of intake, and whether biochemicals were considered under these studies. Presenters explained that two sources of water were examined under FNFNES: tap water to test for metals and surface water for pharmaceuticals. Under FNBI, higher levels of mercury were found in the Pacific ecozone, likely due to the fact that a large component of diet in the region is fish. In a case under the Northern Contaminants Program, there was a drastic drop in lead levels in the blood over a decade after banning use of lead bird shot.

Biochemicals, such as black mold, are not a part of this program. Molds fall under the purview of the environmental public health division who recently published a guide on handling mold in First Nations homes and communities.

Closing remarks

The co-chairs thanked Council members for the valuable discussion and invited any additional input.  Suggested agenda items for future meetings included: an update on NPRI (or include in future Progress Report); regulatory cooperation on nanomaterials through the Regulatory Cooperation Council; alternative assessments (with external expert); results of the second phase of the Domestic Substances List Inventory Update  (including touching on Confidential Business Information as well as how children were highlighted as a vulnerable population); plans for the third phase of the CMP; draft screening assessments; environmental assessment within the risk assessment process; E-waste (Shelagh Kerr could do a presentation on her team's work); and oil sands.

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