Ottawa, ON – A report released today by Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General, reveals Health Canada is failing to protect Canadians from exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday products including cosmetics.

The Commissioner conducted the audit to determine whether Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Program was protecting the public by addressing or preventing dangers to human health and safety posed by chemicals of concern in household consumer products and cosmetics. The audit examined the program’s detection and rapid response activities.

The Commissioner found gaps in testing, notification, and monitoring for compliance in cosmetics, and gaps in monitoring for threats from counterfeit products, and potential threats from e-commerce products. As a result, unsafe products likely remain on the shelves of retailers nationwide and in Canadian households.

The report findings mean that Canadians are at risk of exposure to an array of toxic chemicals in popular cosmetics due to a lack of disclosure of fragrance ingredients, some of which have been linked to cancer, and due to a lack of a requirement for industry to report health and safety incidents related to cosmetics. In 2007, Health Canada committed to require companies to declare incidents from cosmetic use and to declare ingredients prior to entering the market, and to require mandatory labelling for 26 known allergens in fragrance or parfum. None of these changes were made, and according to the Commissioner, these risks remain unaddressed.

“Today’s report shows Health Canada’s appalling lack of action to monitor and remove toxic products from store shelves is putting Canadians at risk,” said Maggie MacDonald of Environmental Defence. “The report confirms years of our own research and demonstrates that urgent action is needed to prevent Canadians’ further exposure to carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, environmental pollutants, and other harmful chemicals in consumer products.”

“The lack of enforcement of key provisions in the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Cosmetics Regulations of the Food and Drugs Act puts Canadians’ health at risk,” said Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relation in Équiterre’s Ottawa office. “It means that Health Canada does not have the information to ensure dangerous consumer products are actually recalled promptly, nor whether cosmetics used on a daily basis by Canadians contained prohibited ingredients.”

Environmental Defence and Équiterre call on the federal government to better protect human health and the environment by requiring industry to disclose fragrance ingredients, by improving monitoring for heavy metals and contamination in cosmetics, improving monitoring and inspections for counterfeit products and assessing potential threats from e-commerce, and acting immediately to remove unsafe products from stores via recalls.

-30-

For more information, or to request an interview please contact:

Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 258; 416-570-2878 (cell); ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca

Dale Robertson, Equiterre, 514-605-2000, drobertson@equiterre.org