Toronto – As Canadians prepare for the height of the holiday shopping season, Environmental Defence today warned that toxic chemicals are still being found in toys and other consumer products because the government has failed to pass adequate consumer protection laws. 
“Canadians lack the legal protections of other industrialized countries when it comes to toxic chemicals in everyday household items,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.  “Until Canada catches up, it’s ‘buyer beware.’”
 
Over the past year, lead has been found in several consumer products, including children’s jewellery and other toys.  Lead is a well known toxin that has been linked to damage to the nervous system, mental and physical development, kidneys and the reproductive system. 
Phthalates, an endocrine disruptor (a chemical that interferes with natural development processes) is commonly found in vinyl and other plastic products.  Environmental Defence co-released a report in June on phthalates and other volatile organic compounds in vinyl shower curtains (report available for free download at http://www.toxicnation.ca ).  Phthalates had previously also been found in soft plastic children’s toys.
Canada still allows six phthalates in kids’ toys that have been illegal in the European Union (EU) since 1999 and will be illegal in the US, as per a law signed by George Bush, in February 2009.  Similarly, the toxic flame retardant known as Deca is banned for use in electronics in the EU as of last July and remains unrestricted in its use in Canada. 
Before the recent federal election, Canada’s federal government introduced a new consumer safety law that provided important new tools for regulators, including the power to issue mandatory recalls.  However, even if this new law is reintroduced and passed, Canada will lag behind the United States and Europe in many areas, including regulation of lead and phthalates.
“Canada will increasingly become a dumping ground for toxic toys and consumer items that are illegal to sell in the rest of the industrialized world unless our government acts quickly to protect the health of Canadians,” said Smith.  “Surely Canadian children deserve the same protection as George Bush is giving American kids?”
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca):  Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change.

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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)