Chemical risk assessments

Learn about chemical substance risk assessments under the Chemicals Management Plan.

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What is the Chemicals Management Plan?

The Chemicals Management Plan began in 2006. The program’s goal is to review and manage the potential risks which chemical substances can pose to Canadians and the environment. This review is done by federal government scientists through a process known as a chemical risk assessment.

If a risk assessment identifies a potential for harm, the federal government then puts a plan in place to reduce that risk. Reviews under this program are being done on existing substances that have been in Canada prior to 1994.

Since 1994, Canada has also had a program in place to screen new chemical substances before allowing their use.

What is a chemical risk assessment?

A chemical risk assessment is a scientific review of how or if a chemical substance affects people and the environment. The review considers:

  • the potential effects of the chemical on peoples’ health and the environment
  • if and how Canadians or the environment are exposed to the chemical, including through:
    • air
    • soil
    • food
    • water
    • the use of products available to Canadians
  • if there might be potentially harmful effects to humans or the environment at current levels of exposure

How is a chemical risk assessment done?

Government scientists gather information from a wide range of sources to help understand:

  • the effects of a chemical
  • how humans and the environment are exposed to it

This includes:

  • reviewing government research and studies on levels of the chemical measured in the environment and in humans
  • reviewing research in scientific journals, web databases and monitoring surveys
  • considering reviews by other national and international agencies
  • considering information provided by industry manufacturers or importers on a chemical
  • using computer models to predict effects or exposure

After considering this information, scientists determine if there’s a potential risk to Canadians and/or the environment at current levels of exposure.

A draft risk assessment is then published for public review. Comments submitted by the public are considered during the preparation of the final risk assessment.

Some risk assessments may be easy to understand, while others may be more complicated. In some cases, the assessment may address many chemicals at once based on common chemical properties or uses.

If the final risk assessment determines that a chemical could be harmful at current levels of exposure, we take actions to:

  • reduce the risk
  • protect Canadians and their environment

Why are chemical risk assessments important to your health?

Chemicals can help make beneficial products that Canadians use everyday. However, they may also have harmful effects on human health and the environment if not properly managed.

A chemical risk assessment report explains how you come into contact with chemicals. Knowing the potential risks helps you to make informed choices about your exposure to chemicals in everyday life.

How can Canadians get involved?

You can give us your feedback on draft risk assessment reports and proposed actions to reduce potential risks. Consultation opportunities are posted on the chemical substances website for public comment for 60 days.

You can also:

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