Toronto, Ottawa – Unexplained delays in the federal Chemicals Management Plan “Challenge” program has environmental and health organizations across Canada concerned about the government’s commitment to protecting Canadians from toxic chemicals. As a result, they are calling on government to get the program back on track quickly.
“Missed deadlines mean further delays in getting toxic chemicals out of our environment and protecting Canadians’ health,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.  
Prime Minister Harper launched the Challenge program in 2006 “to make Canada a world leader in the testing and regulation of chemicals that are used in thousands of industrial and consumer products.” Last year, under this program, the government announced that it would be banning bisphenol A from baby bottles.  
In recent months, three deadlines affecting 48 priority chemicals have been missed without explanation or notice.  The list includes siloxanes, contentious chemicals that have been shown to have reproduction, fertility, and birth or developmental effects.  Other chemicals with missed deadlines include several potential cancer-causing and reproductive toxins. Many are found in common consumer products such as personal care products, pharmaceuticals, paper and rubber products, medical equipment and supplies, cleaning compounds, polishes, paints, coatings, and adhesives.
“This is a program that has maintained broad support, including from industry, environmental groups and health advocates, so it’s baffling to see the government missing its own deadlines,” said Lisa Gue, Environmental Health Policy Analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.
Environmental and health organizations are concerned that these delays could postpone implementation of effective measures to reduce health and environmental risks associated with the 48 priority chemicals involved.   The delays may also affect the timeline for assessing other substances in the program.
The groups are asking Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to publish the delayed chemical analysis and risk management approaches immediately, to communicate the reason for the delay, and to avoid further disruptions to the “Challenge” program.
The Chemicals Management Plan identifies roughly 200 priority chemicals, placing the onus on industry to demonstrate that the chemicals are safe.  Where industry is unable to meet this standard, the chemicals are identified as “toxic” and placed on a regulatory track.
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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)
Lisa Gue, David Suzuki Foundation (613) 796-7699