We have a generational opportunity to save lives, prevent illnesses, protect at-risk populations, save money, and improve ecosystem health through strategic and targeted revisions to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).
High Priority Recommendations to Improve CEPA
A broad coalition of organizations and individuals strongly support the recommendations made in the majority report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to improve CEPA principles and ensure greater protection to human health and our environment from toxic exposures.
Among other important recommendations, they endorse the following priorities:
- Reverse burden of proof for substances of very high concern.
- Incorporate alternatives assessment and substitution of toxic chemicals.
- Increase protections for vulnerable populations and communities.
- Require chemical risk assessments to include aggregate, cumulative and synergistic effects.
- Create national air quality standards that are legally binding and enforceable.
- Improve timelines and requirements for risk management actions on toxic chemicals.
- Improve enforcement by bolstering CEPA’s toolbox and increasing resources.
- Extend workers’ right-to- know about toxic substances to all citizens by requiring. mandatory labelling of all consumer products containing toxic substances or chemicals suspected of causing adverse health effects including cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm and allergic reactions.
- Fix the chemical re-assessment process.
- Improve review and approval process for new substances.
- Recognize the right to a healthy environment.
Here are quotes from the groups and individuals who endorse the recommended changes to CEPA:
“Synthetic chemicals are found in our bodies from conception through to old age, and in the environment globally. They have varying but very real effects on both human health and wellbeing and environmental health and functioning. They are already a planetary driver and over the next 50 years their production will increase nearly fourfold. The recommendations found in this document, if implemented, will help to control the very real danger that such chemicals pose to humans and to all life.”
– Dr. Donald W. Spady MD, MSc, FRCP(C) , Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics
University of Alberta, Canadian Paediatrics Society representative to CMP
“The International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents more than 23,000 professional fire fighters in Canada, supports legislative changes that will better protect our members from exposure to dangerous toxic substances in the course of their duties. We believe that fire fighters and all Canadians deserve environmental laws that properly legislate the use of toxins in products and provide adequate health and safety protections.”
– Scott Marks, Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations Office, International Firefighter Association
“Blue Green Canada supports the recommendations proposed in the Standing Committee’s report on the review of CEPA. Substituting the use of toxic substances with safer alternatives and air quality standards that are enforceable across the country are vital components for healthier workplaces and a thriving economy.”
– Jamie Kirkpatrick, Program Manager, Blue Green Canada
“For years, Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have called for stronger laws to protect them from toxic chemicals and tackle environmental pollution. Canada’s laws are now significantly weaker than those in Europe and the U.S. when it comes to regulating toxic chemicals. The report’s recommendations provide a strong foundation to finally ensure strong protections of human health and ecosystems.”
– Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence
“Scientists and experts have long warned about the cost of cumulative exposure to toxic chemicals in terms of human health and the threat to our environment. It is vital that the recommendations proposed by the committee are reflected in a strong government bill to revise CEPA.”
– Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations, Équiterre
“The fact that research links many hormone-related cancers and other chronic illnesses to toxic chemical exposures from consumer products is very alarming. Unless the industry can prove that the use of certain toxic chemicals poses no risk and has no less-toxic substitutes, these chemicals should be prohibited.”
– Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
“There is much to applaud in the Committee’s recommendations, particularly that health risk assessments must consider critical windows of exposure, especially important during the pre and postnatal period of development; and that for some substances there may be no threshold safe exposure. The developing brain, from early pregnancy into adulthood, has been shown to be a most sensitive health endpoint in risk assessments and epidemiological studies measuring cognitive and behavioural effects. Both exposure and adequate developmental toxicity data are important in assessing risk to pregnant women (the fetus), and children. We trust there will be mandatory language in the text of CEPA (not just the preamble) that recognizes and addresses the differential sensitivity of fetuses and children in chemical assessments and risk management, as contained in the Pest Control Products Act.”
– Barbara McElgunn, Health Policy Advisor, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada
“Everyone in Canada should have the right to live in a healthy environment. Fresh air, clean water and functioning ecosystems are basic necessities of life. We welcome the committee’s recommendations for upgrading CEPA to recognize environmental rights, protect vulnerable populations and strengthen the legal framework for environmental protection.”
“Tous les Canadiennes et Canadiens devraient avoir le droit de vivre dans un environnement sain. L’air frais, l’eau propre et les écosystèmes fonctionnels sont des besoins fondamentaux de la vie. Nous nous réjouissons des recommandations du comité visant à améliorer la LCPE afin de reconnaître les droits environnementaux, protéger les populations vulnérables et renforcer le cadre juridique de la protection de l’environnement.”
– Peter Robinson, CEO, David Suzuki Foundation
“The principles of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are outstanding, and it is time for federal toxics policy to live up to them. Canada must move on the 11 priority areas identified in our joint submission, so that Canadians will be better informed about their exposure to toxics and so that our country can move to drastically reduce those exposures. It is particularly urgent to move on mandatory product labeling and protection of vulnerable populations.”
– Doris Grinspun, Chief Executive Officer, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
“Vulnerable groups like young children bear most of the burden of environmental exposures to toxics from products and services that we all use. Families that cannot afford to avoid toxic exposures from products are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of toxic exposures. The recommendations put forward by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to protect vulnerable populations and assess cumulative exposures are vital to ensuring equal protections of all Canadians and communities from harmful chemicals.”
– Councillor Joe Mihevc on behalf of the Board of Health of Toronto
“The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is the foundation of Canadian environmental legislation and plays a key role in protecting both the environment and human health. In my capacity as Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, I support the Standing Committee recommendations to significantly strengthen CEPA to enhance protection of vulnerable populations, tighten sections related to risk assessment and management and to create legally binding national air quality standards. These actions, and others proposed by the Standing Committee, will serve to protect the health of Canadians today and for future generations.”
– Lawrence Loh, Medical Officer of Health (Acting), Region of Peel
“The Canadian Medical Association strongly supports the report’s recommendation to establish mandatory national air quality standards. Air pollution permeates beyond provincial borders. As such, national objectives and pan-Canadian standards must be implemented in order to protect the health of all Canadians.”
– Dr Granger Avery, President , Canadian Medical Association
“Poor air quality is a known cause and trigger of symptoms and serious lung damage in people with asthma. Stronger and enforceable air quality standards nationally will help reduce levels of air contaminants, prevent debilitating illnesses and improve the quality of life for many people suffering from asthma and all Canadians. We strongly support the committee’s recommendation to establish legally binding and enforceable national standards for air quality.”
– Vanessa Foran, President and CEO, Asthma Canada
“Environmental exposures are a major threat to public health and a key driver of health inequities in Canada. The Canadian Public Health Association welcomes and supports the committee’s recommendations to strengthen CEPA, in particular by mandating legally-binding national air quality standards and requiring the assessment of cumulative, aggregate and synergistic exposures to chemicals. These recommended amendments can help mitigate the incidence of chronic illnesses such as cancer and substantially improve the health and well-being of Canadians.”
– Ian Culbert, Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association
“Consumers are demanding safer products for themselves, their families, and the planet. I strongly urge our government to better protect the health of Canadians and our environment by implementing regulations that ensures consumers’ right to know and that industry operates more sustainably.”
– Jean Eng, Founder, Pure + Simple
“Beautycounter is a skin care and cosmetics company dedicated to ingredient safety and product performance. We believe Canadian families have the right to the most health protective laws possible when it comes to their personal care and household products. For that reason, we fully support the most health protective version of reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”
– Lindsay Dahl, Vice-President Community Affairs, Beautycounter
“This report is an essential starting point to reforming the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) so that Canadians are truly protected from the toxic substances harming our health. The report’s recommendations must be implemented. The state of our health and that of our ecosystems depend on it.”
“Ce rapport est un point de départ essentiel pour la révision de la Loi canadienne sur la protection de l’environnement (LCPE) pour que les Canadiens et les Canadiennes soient protégés contre les substances toxiques qui nuisent à notre santé. Il faut que les recommandations de ce rapport soient implantées. L’état de notre santé et de nos écosystèmes en dépendent. Action cancer du sein du Québec.”
– Jennifer Beeman, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
“We encourage and support better transparency and safety for consumers. It is important for businesses to be a catalyst for consumer safety and advocacy as we handle raw materials and finished products for the end user. We support the committee’s important recommendations on alternatives assessment, cumulative and aggregate exposure assessment and the right for consumers to know their ingredients and especially the presence of hazardous substances. We advocate for better transparency, better safety and health of consumers.”
– Karina Birch, Co-owner, Rocky Mountain Soap Company
“The Green Beaver Company, founded in 2002, is a certified natural personal care product company located in Hawkesbury. Our mission is to help people minimize the amount of toxic chemicals they expose themselves to and consequently release in our environment. We make many efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and impact and believe that all businesses can do the same for the present and future generations. In this light, we fully support an improved and stronger reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”
“The Green Beaver Company, fondée en 2002, est une société certifiée de produits de soins personnels naturels située à Hawkesbury. Notre mission est d’aider les gens à réduire la quantité de substances toxiques auxquelles ils s’exposent et qu’ils libèrent ainsi dans notre environnement. Nous faisons beaucoup d’efforts pour réduire notre empreinte environnementale et nous croyons que toutes les entreprises peuvent faire de même pour les générations présentes et futures. À cet égard, nous appuyons pleinement une réforme rigoureuse afin de renforcir la Loi canadienne sur la protection de l’environnement.”
– Alain Menard, Owner, The Green Beaver Company
“Young women and children are especially vulnerable to these toxic exposures, so we welcome stronger protections that stand up for our reproductive health and our children’s development.”
– Cassie Barker, Executive Director, Women’s Healthy Environments Network
“The committee has made clear that the law must be strengthened to better protect children, pregnant women, the elderly, and vulnerable and historically disadvantaged communities from the harmful effects of pollution and toxic chemicals. The committee’s strong recommendation that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act recognize and fulfil every person’s right to a healthy environment is another encouraging and exciting development.”
– Elaine MacDonald, Healthy Communities Director, Ecojustice
“Air pollution is the leading environmental risk factor for death and illness in Canada, causing an estimated 7000 deaths annually. Legally binding national air quality standards as proposed in the parliamentary committee majority report have proven to be a powerful mechanism to reduce air pollution and a highly cost-effective approach to improve public health.”
– Michael Brauer, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
“The report of the Standing Committee provides a solid foundation for amending CEPA to address a host of unmet needs for protecting human health and the environment from toxic substances including preventing exposures of vulnerable populations, examining and substituting safer alternatives, and enhancing the role of the public in the decision-making process.”
– Joseph Castrilli, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association
“In the 18 years since the current CEPA was enacted, scientific developments in our understanding of how chemicals affect health has advanced dramatically. These developments make it clear that current regulatory assumptions based on the notion of “safe thresholds” can no longer withstand scientific scrutiny, and in fact have discriminatory effects, where small doses harm fetuses, children, women, and especially poor and marginalized communities, more than others. Endocrine Disruptors Action Group (EDAction) strongly supports the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. This is an urgent opportunity to address the shortcomings of CEPA that have led to the ongoing substitution of one harmful chemical for another.”
– Michelle Murphy, Professor, Endocrine Disruptors Action Group (EDAction)
What is CEPA?
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is the law that governs the assessment of risks posed by chemical substances and enables the government to manage these risks through bans, restrictions and regulations. However, the current law is not sufficiently equipped to deal with the nature of chemicals and their risks today, leaving Canadians’ health and our shared environment inadequately protected.
An initiative by the COALITION FOR ACTION ON TOXICS: Stronger laws for the health of people and the environment
The Coalition for Action on Toxics brings together leading experts, researchers, and representatives from health and environmental organizations with a shared belief that all Canadians deserve an equal chance to live a healthy life in a healthy environment.