Toronto – The federal program to manage toxic chemicals in Canada is an ambitious and groundbreaking program,but it is failing to protect Canadians from chemicals associated with toxic effects on human reproduction and child development, according to Canadian public interest organizations: the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba, Environmental Defence, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Environmental Health Association of Québec, Ecojustice, Breast Cancer Action Montreal, Campaign for Pesticide Reduction! Winnipeg, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, Reach for Unbleached and STORM Coalition. Under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), the government recently published a review of 19 high priority chemicals (under Batch 3 of the Industry Challenge) and proposed management actions for only four of the nineteen.
“The government’s own evaluations concluded that chemicals like Pigment Red 3 or 2-MEA, used in many types of paints, glues, cleaning products and cosmetics, may cause reproductive and developmental damage in humans” states Fe de Leon, researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “At the end of the day, Canadian exposure to these chemicals will continue through industrial emissions and products that contain them. Health effects from exposure to these chemicals can happen even at very low levels of exposure, so the appropriate response to the evaluations has to be a prohibition on these chemicals being used in consumer products and industrial applications.
The four chemicals for which the scientific evidence shows associations with reproductive and developmental toxicity are Pigment Red 3; 2-methoxypropanol; Ethanol, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy)-(DEGME); and 2-Methoxyethanol acetate (2-MEA). These chemicals are used in a wide range of industrial applications, and consumer and cosmetic products that include: window cleaners, de-icers, paints, solvents, cleaning products, floor care products, brake fluids, inks in pens, oven cleaners, carpet and upholstery cleaners, rust removers and hard surface cleaners, perfumes, hair spray, skin creams and cleansers, pesticides, and food industry cleaners (see backgrounder).
Although government’s management proposals aim to add three of the four chemicals to the Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist,1 which lists restrictions or prohibitions of chemicals in cosmetic products, the groups are calling for regulatory action on their use in consumer products as the European Union has done, as well as require the prohibition on the use, sale, manufacture, import and disposal of these chemicals in industrial applications. A serious concern cited by the groups is that the evaluation reports conducted under the CMP do not address the exposure of these chemicals and their breakdown products beyond disposal.
“The government’s review of the evidence shows the need for finding safe alternatives for these chemicals” states Sandra Madray, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba. “One has to be concerned about our chronic and cumulative exposure to chemicals since they may undermine our reproductive health and our children’s healthy development. Because these products may be in the cleaners we use at home or in the creams that we apply to our bodies, there should be the urgency to remove them from these products. Our children, people with environmental sensitivities, and the elderly may be at a greater risk to these chemicals.”
“We don’t really know how much of these chemicals are entering our environment and our bodies because the assessments don’t consider all potential pathways to exposure, both before and after product disposal,” said Delores Broten of Reach for Unbleached.
2-MEA is classified as a Category 2 substance (may cause harm to the development of the human fetus and impair fertility at low doses) in Europe. Similarly, DEGME is banned in cosmetics in Europe and may also be regulated under the U.S. Clean Air Act. Pigment Red 3 is not approved for use in cosmetics in the U.S.
“When developmental toxicity data are available, the fetus in many cases is found to be the most sensitive to exposures, and the primary focus of scientific concern. Pregnant women use cosmetics and other consumer products that should not contain recognized developmental or reproductive toxicants.” states Barbara McElgunn of Learning Disabilities Association of Canada
“We should not be exposing our children to chemicals that might irreversibly undermine their development. We need these chemicals off our shelves, especially when they are used so widely in creams, nail polish, plastics, and paints. The prohibition of these chemicals is necessary if we are to protect our children’s future.” states Rohini Peris of Environmental Health Association of Québec.
The government will finalize their evaluation on these chemicals within 6 months according to the timeframe for the Chemicals Management Plan.
For more information, contact:
Fe de Leon, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 416-960-2284 ext. 223
Sandra Madray, Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba, 204-256-9390
Rohini Peris, Environmental Health Association of Québec, 514-683-5701
Gideon Forman, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, 416-306-CAPE (2273)
Elaine Macdonald, Ecojustice, 416-368-7533
Carol Secter, Breast Cancer Action Montreal, 514-483-1846
Anne Lindsey, Campaign for Pesticide Reduction! Winnipeg, 204-947-6511
Barbara McElgunn, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 416-281-9676
Delores Broten, Reach for Unbleached, 250-339-6117
Anna Tilman, STORM Coalition, 905-841-0095
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell)
1 Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist. Accessed at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/person/cosmet/info-ind-prof/_hot-list-cri…