Summary report of the Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council meeting, November 26-27, 2018

Purpose and meeting objectives

The purpose of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) Stakeholder Advisory Council (SAC) meeting is to provide stakeholders the opportunity to offer advice and input to Government on the implementation of the CMP, and to foster dialogue on issues pertaining to the CMP between stakeholders and government, and among different stakeholder groups.  The meeting objectives were to seek stakeholder views on many key topics (see below) to consider for program renewal and the future of chemicals management in Canada.

Day 1 – November 26, 2018

Welcome and introductions

The Co-Chairs welcomed the members of the CMP SAC and the observers. An overview of the agenda was provided and members endorsed the agenda with no changes.  The action items from the last SAC meeting in May 2018 were reviewed [related to work on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) and vulnerable populations] and it was confirmed that the items had been completed. An announcement was made that Gwen Goodier is now acting Director General, Industrial Sectors, Chemicals and Waste Directorate, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Co-Chair for SAC. For this meeting, Gwen would be replaced by Shannon Castellarin.  It was also noted that the process to fill the SAC vacancy would continue along with a broader review of the composition of the council and the terms of reference, keeping in mind CMP post 2020 needs.

A government official from ECCC reported out briefly on recent meetings focused on plastics/plastic waste (Best Brains Exchange on Plastics, Canadians Plastics Science Symposium). Members asked for further information on these meetings (list of participants, summaries) and made the link to earlier work to add micro-plastics to the priority substances list and noted that the public’s interest in these issues (for example, access to material on how to reduce microfibers in the environment) has been expanding over the past few years.  

Action items

Agenda item: Remembering Sandra Madray

Member Fe de Leon provided a tribute to SAC member Sandra Madray, who passed away in August 2018.  It was noted that Sandra’s involvement in SAC dated back to 2007 when the council was first formed. Sandra had studied chemistry and drew on her firsthand experience with workplace exposure/chemical sensitivities to engage in many projects. She felt she could use her position on SAC to give a voice to others affected by chemicals. In addition to founding Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba, she was active on the Regulatory Cooperation Council, and the In-Commerce Working Group, among others. It was noted that she played an important role to help organize the recent vulnerable population’s panel which included those living with multiple chemical sensitivities.  Members from industry and non-governmental organization (NGO) communities as well as the Co-Chairs shared memories of working with Sandra noting her dedication to the issues and her commitment to open dialogue. A suggestion was made for Co-Chairs to consider a SAC replacement that brings a focus in multiple chemical sensitivities. It was noted the council seat would continue to be filled by a representative who brings a human health perspective.

Agenda item: CMP Science Committee brief out

A government official from Health Canada presented an overview of the CMP Science Committee meetings to date this year. She noted that the committee membership had recently been refreshed and that details could be found on line.

In response to members’ interest, Health Canada officials agreed to host a short webinar after the November meeting to give SAC members highlights of the discussion.  The next meeting of the CMP Science Committee is scheduled for June 2019 (topic to be determined).

Agenda item: Vulnerable populations

A government official from Health Canada provided an update on program activities related to vulnerable populations work since the May SAC meeting, noting a strong interest in moving forward on this file. 

Key points in the update included:

Member comments and discussion included the following:

Members were asked for input on potential further engagement mechanisms to continue the focus on vulnerable populations at SAC, including the idea of creating a resource group. Such a group could be comprised of SAC members, those with lived experiences, external experts, and academics. There was support for bringing in new people and expertise with a resource group.

Action item:

Agenda item: Chemicals and workplace exposures

A Health Canada official provided an update on the Health Canada discussions with occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators on chemicals and workplace exposures.  

As this is the first time workplace exposure has been a SAC agenda item, an overview of the current system in Canada was given to members. It was explained that each jurisdiction has its own OHS legislation which establishes the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker. Across jurisdictions, everyone in the workplace is responsible for their own safety and for the safety of co-workers. The internal responsibility system puts in place an employee-employer partnership in ensuring a safe and disease free workplace. Health Canada administers the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). Currently, CEPA 1999 assessments do not consider worker exposure and risk. Internationally, the U.S., Europe, and Australia as well as other Health Canada legislation (such as, the Pest Control Products Act) consider worker exposure. A few examples were provided to illustrate how international assessment outcomes related to workers compare to chemicals being assessed under CEPA 1999 and it was noted that this analysis and case studies are being used to inform discussion with the provinces and territories (PT).  In Winter 2019, a meeting is being held with Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) OHS regulators to identify and describe activities that Health Canada could take (for example, technical tools, expertise) to enhance the protection of Canadian workers from exposure to chemicals. After these government-to-government discussions, potential public consultation on a proposed program of work for Health Canada in this area could then take place.  

Issues raised by members during the discussion included:

Agenda item: Engagement strategies

An overview of potential engagement strategies to seek SAC’s early views on what broader engagement under the CMP could look like in the future was presented.  Building on the work of the vulnerable populations panel (May 2018 CMP SAC meeting) and current government priorities (for example, gender/Gender Based Analysis +, youth, reconciliation agenda with Indigenous people), it was noted that CMP program renewal offers a unique opportunity to re-imagine a CMP of the future, that is informed by engagement with the broadest spectrum of Canadians. To guide the discussion, members were given 2 charge questions:

A number of themes emerged over the course of the discussion including:

Day 2 - November 27, 2018

Agenda item: Update on developing a prioritization framework for post 2020 chemicals management

To guide the discussion, members were given 3 charge questions:

A wide variety of opinions and comments were shared by members, including:

Chemicals management and prioritization is complex. Commercial use patterns are evolving and supply chain information is difficult to obtain. Government needs to be able to identify and respond to emerging risks (for example, consider cumulative effects, consider substitution). Some stakeholders noted ensuring enough prominence was put on exposures whereas others called for a hazard-based lens.

Prioritization is key for post 2020. Members suggested CMP review the prioritization process of other programs  to see how chemicals are considered [for example, species at risk process and Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessments contain a section on chemicals (ECCC noted will follow-up)].

Members discussed whether Canada’s trade agreements can play a better role in helping CMP be more efficient by including language to support more information from supply chain.

Performance measurement and enforcement information was flagged as important (consider not just risk assessment and risk management but what has worked). In response to this comment, Government officials noted the recent report by the Auditor General/Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development that included a focus on performance measurement under CMP and the improvements underway. ECCC offered to have a discussion on the joint ECCC-Health Canada performance measurement strategy, which is currently under development, with the SAC in May 2019.

The Government should be working internally to “silo-bust”. CMP should be reaching out to other federal program areas and looking at how different programs intersect (for example, CMP with sustainable development, climate change, workplace, fisheries etc.) and where there may be gaps. Members discussed how the CMP should consider other data sources including on the environment side [for example, the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), COSEWIC reports, public health agency data]. Other federal government programs could contribute to the prioritization exercise, including oil sand monitoring, Great Lakes area/research, Arctic research and the Northern Contaminants Program.

Government needs to consider a lifecycle approach as part of priority setting. The linkages to municipal waste water reinforce the importance of a life cycle approach. The Canada Water Networks National Expert Panel Report on Canada’s Challenges and Opportunities to Address Contaminants in Wastewater (available online) should be considered. 

Coordination could also be added to the prioritization framework to ensure a robust approach, including periodic reviews and check-ins.

Action items:

Agenda item: Informed substitution

This agenda item summarized activities that have taken place to date to advance collective understanding of informed substitution, and what the future could hold in Canada’s CMP post 2020.  It included a presentation by a SAC member representing the Industry Coordinating Group (ICG) for CEPA 1999 along with a presentation by government which covered a paper completed by the University of Massachusetts Lowell (U Mass) to inform post 2020 planning.  Council members were provided with background material (CMP Science Committee Report and the Options Paper by U Mass) and expressed appreciation for these documents, which they were able to review in advance.  Discussion centred on confirming understanding of stakeholder feedback to date and seek further input to refine key considerations and objectives.

Industry SAC members helped to set the stage for the discussion by sharing their perspectives on what informed substitution means and what role government should play in this area. They spoke of industry’s support for this concept – however substitution is already being used and is at the core of industry research and development. There is a lot of incentive to look for newer, better, and more efficient substitution.  

Other key points made by the ICG presenter included:

Informed substitution is multifaceted and complex. A balanced approach is needed that goes beyond hazard. A substitution may be less hazardous, but then may take resources that cause an undesirable environmental footprint. For any substitution strategy to be effective, it must start with a comprehensive formulation step, with primary and secondary characteristics of concern. If the goal is to reduce exposure to a substance, then we have to ask if we are creating a different problem – unsustainable, different hazard, environmental problem. One for one substitution as an assumption may lead to regrettable substitution.

Important business considerations need to be a factor. For example, considerations include intellectual property and competiveness issues (such as, commercial availability, retooling production lines, capital costs).

Every substance that goes into a product needs safety, regulatory and efficacy evaluation and social acceptance by the consumer is important.

Government can support informed substitution by profiling education, encouraging technological innovation, providing research and development funds, identifying funding levers, and selecting and advancing research priorities.

Any substitution strategy must lead to affordable and sustainable results that are at least as good as or better than the previous product, produce meaningful and practical outcomes and also accomplish goals.

The industry presenter noted that Government has tools to implement informed substitution, but does not have expertise or knowledge to promote different formulations.

Government officials discussed what role government could play to meaningfully take part in informed substitution in a post 2020 context. How can government build research capacity? How can government cooperate internationally?

Government officials discussed objectives: health of Canadians and environment by supporting transition to safer chemicals/non-chemicals; prevent unintended negative consequences.  This can be accomplished through: regulatory, non-regulatory, capacity building, link research and development with regulatory priorities. Government has information gathering powers and can ask for information on alternatives.

Government initiatives related to informed substitution since 2017 were summarized for SAC, including work with CMP Science Committee and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  It was noted that this file requires knowledge that is dispersed across government, NGOs, academia and industry requiring collaboration from all stakeholders.

Agenda item: U Mass Lowell paper on informed substitution

Government officials presented findings from the U Mass Lowell paper which had 5 key themes:

A lengthy discussion and exchange followed and many differing views were presented by members, including:

Traditional knowledge is an element that is missing in U Mass Lowell paper (example given was traditional medicine instead of deet). The point was made that traditional knowledge and science are both valuable.

The lens should always include whether the product is necessary and or the substance is necessary. Support was expressed for a hazards approach/reverse burden approach.

The role of consumers and the market was underscored. Industry has voluntarily changed based on consumer interest. Consumers and public opinion can be more effective to drive changes versus regulatory approaches.  Some noted that industry needs to communicate to consumers. Consumers have power by sharing information with each other for example, Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles. Consumers are concerned with where products are coming from, and under what conditions were they made. Another comment was made about the level of burden on consumers now is too much, especially for vulnerable populations.  On consumer knowledge, some noted that full transparency/ full disclosure of chemicals in products is needed – in furniture, personal care products, cleaning products etc. so that Canadians can make informed decisions and guide the market. 

There is a need to think about the relative risks and hazards and to informing consumers about a continuum of informed versus uninformed substitution.  In a similar vein, a starting point must be safety, but sustainability also needs to be considered (for example, sometimes there is an environmental impact to using naturally sourced products).

The need for caution was expressed about a safer chemicals list as such a list may stop innovation or increase exposures and create more risks.

The global context is important. The market drives businesses to go toward voluntary substitutions. In a global environment, producers will align with the regulations that are the strictest.  A focus on the global supply chain and information sharing with countries we import from was encouraged. We cannot mitigate risks by focusing only on Canada.

The importance of removing regulatory barriers to the evolution of products needs to be part of the plan.

Some members stated that we already have mandatory substitution (via prohibition). The point of informed substitution is replacement with a safer chemical. CMP should also be considering the economic/ecological costs of when risks are determined – right now risk to human health and the environment is considered only.

Members spoke about the green chemistry sector and the value there would be in having them at the SAC table. Other members noted that green chemistry is part of what the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) members do.

Government officials reiterated that not all chemicals would be substituted. Government only assesses a subset of all chemicals. However, there are chemicals in the market that are not on the list to be assessed, but might still benefit from a substitution.

Agenda item: Status update on progress towards advancing the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s (ENVI) recommendations

The Director General Co-Chair provided an update on the progress towards advancing the ENVI’s recommendations. The Government has focused on key areas such as EDC in assessments, public engagement, informed substitution, a vulnerable population’s definition and policy framework, and the confidential business information approach.

Closing remarks

The Co-Chairs thanked SAC members for the valuable discussions and for their active participation.  

In response to some member’s comments that information on CMP Post 2020 was difficult to find, government promoted the new Consulting on the future of chemicals management in Canada web page as a repository of information. Members were canvassed for future agenda items and expressed an interest in the following topics which would need to be further scoped: green chemistry, performance measurement – trends and sources of data (for example, Northern Contaminants Program, ecological indicators such as NPRI and strong interest in municipal waste water as part of that discussion) and links to recent CESD report, intersection between chemicals and climate change/adaptation/environmental vulnerability, what departments are doing on the group of chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

The next meeting is proposed for May 2019, with a webinar on background information of the next meeting’s topics scheduled 4 weeks in advance of the meeting. Members were encouraged to complete the evaluation for SAC meeting (as per standard protocol).

Attendees

CMP SAC Members

(visit the CMP SAC members' web page for biographical information)

Co-chairs

Council members present

Council Members Absent

Observers

Government Officials

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