Toronto, ON—We applaud the federal government’s decision to add microbeads to the Schedule 1 list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), enabling the government to regulate the substance. The government can now move on regulations to ban microbeads under CEPA.

Microbeads are toxic and unnecessary additions to personal care products like toothpaste and body wash. They may contain toxic substances such as phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) that become absorbed on their surface, and can be consumed by fish and birds.  Furthermore, every day they continue to be used, the Great Lakes become more polluted with microplastic. Researchers from the State University of New York estimate that Lake Ontario contains 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometre of lake bottom.

Microbeads can easily be eliminated from personal care products and replaced with natural ingredients like almond and apricot shells. Several large companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Loblaw have already taken the lead and announced that they will be ending the use of these microplastics, effectively eliminating economic arguments for delaying a ban on these substances.

Also, other jurisdictions have already moved to ban microbeads. On December 28, 2015, U.S. President Obama signed a bill requiring that American manufacturers end the use of microbeads in products by July 1, 2017. The bill will also end the sale of products containing microbeads in the U.S. by July 1, 2018. Today’s announcement will enable the Canadian government to better align our regulation of microbeads with the U.S., in terms of the definition of the size of microbeads, and how quickly they can be removed from the market.

This announcement also comes at a time when CEPA is being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We are calling for improvements to risk management under the act to make sure toxic substances are removed from products in a timely manner.

While risk assessments have been completed for many toxic chemicals on  schedule 1, development and implementation of risk management strategies for many substances assessed as “CEPA-toxic” has yet to be completed or is inadequate.  For example, triclosan was declared toxic to the environment under the CMP in 2012, yet no ban or restrictions have been announced to date. We hope that this swift action on microbeads is a sign of things to come when it comes to the federal government’s attention to toxic chemicals.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For further information contact:

Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence, jmayville@environmentaldefence.ca; 416-323-9521 ext. 228, 905-330-0172 (cell)