Chlorinated Paraffins

What are they?

  • Chlorinated paraffins are industrial chemicals, which may also be found in some consumer products.
  • Chlorinated paraffins are a family of complex chemical mixtures composed of varying lengths of carbon atom chains. Short-chain chlorinated paraffins have 10 to 13 carbon atoms, medium-chain chlorinated paraffins have 14 to 17 carbon atoms, and long-chain chlorinated paraffins have 18 or more carbon atoms.

How are they used?

  • Chlorinated paraffins are used in metalworking fluids, such as cutting oils and high pressure lubricating oils, as a plasticizer and in some cases as flame retardants in various polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products. Chlorinated paraffins may also be used in products such as paints, sealants, rubber and elastomers.
  • Based on the most recent data available, chlorinated paraffins are not manufactured commercially, but are imported into Canada.

Why did the Government of Canada assess them?

  • Chlorinated paraffins were initially included under the first Priority Substances List program for the assessment of potential risks to the environment and to human health.
  • Chlorinated paraffins were identified as a potential concern to the environment based on available information regarding possible persistence, accumulation, and toxicity in the environment.
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins were also identified as a potential concern for human health as it was found to cause cancer in some experiments with laboratory animals.

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of chlorinated paraffins. Following this initial Priority Substances List assessment, additional scientific information about chlorinated paraffins in the environment has now been evaluated.
  • The evaluation showed that most chlorinated paraffins can stay in the environment for a long time and build up in the bodies of animals or within the food chain. In addition, there is evidence that chlorinated paraffins are released into the Canadian environment and have the potential to cause harm to aquatic animals at relatively low concentrations.
  • The Government of Canada has determined that all chlorinated paraffins are considered harmful with respect to human health, while short-, medium- and only long-chain chlorinated paraffins with up to 20 carbon atoms are considered harmful to the environment.
  • The risk management approach and the final follow-up assessment were published on August 30, 2008. A 60-day public comment period on the risk management approach followed, ending on October 30, 2008.
  • The Government of Canada is considering options to reduce or eliminate exposure to these substances. For instance, chlorinated paraffins containing up to 20 carbon atoms will be recommended for virtual elimination to achieve the lowest level of release to the environment that is technically and economically feasible.  Action will also include a legal prohibition of the manufacture, use, sale, offering for sale, and import of chlorinated paraffins where other substitutes are economically and technically feasible.
  • A proposed order adding chlorinated paraffins to the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule I of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) was published on September 20, 2008, for a 60-day public comment period.
  • Consultations with stakeholders will take place during the development of risk management actions.

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