House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Not any more, the parliamentary secretary will tell us. That is true. However, he must admit that certain toys could contain PVC. Of course, in 1998 the government decided to change its directive to state that even imported products intended for infants must not contain these PVC ingredients.

Third, by inhaling certain dusts found on construction materials. That too can be dangerous.

Fourth, by absorption through the skin. We know that certain medical devices and accessories contain PVC, which makes the material more flexible. So inevitably, being absorbed through the skin, these products directly enter the body, and people are exposed to these substances.

Finally, by ingestion, since certain food product containers may contain the PVC in question.

What are the effects of exposure to PVC?

First, there is an impact on the endocrine system. I will leave it at that. Problems related to the endocrine system have been detected in certain adolescents, certain young people.

Next, there is also an impact in terms of testicular problems. We have come to realize that overexposure to these products could even have some degree of impact on human fertility.

Finally, it is most probably with regard to children that we have to be concerned about the effects of this certain exposure.

To summarize, here is where PVC is to be found.

It is found in three major types of products: toys, cosmetics and medical devices.

With regard to toys, in 1998, following an assessment of risks associated with objects containing DINP that are intended for children, Health Canada concluded that the amount of DINP released by flexible PVC products could pose a risk to the health and safety of children aged three months to one year. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have since been obliged to ensure that flexible plastic soothers and rattles are free of DINP, DEHP and all other phthalate products.

In Canada and the United States, phthalates are no longer found in toys or objects that may be put in children’s mouths. However it is still possible to find this type of product in toys designed for older children, thus posing a potential risk of exposure for them. So phthalates can be found in certain toys, and children over the age of three could very easily leave their toys lying around, with the result that infants might put this type of product containing PVC in their mouths. So it seems clear to me that there must be a total ban so far as toys are concerned.

Next, regarding cosmetics, hon. members will recall that a few years ago, the government and Health Canada announced their intention to amend the cosmetics regulations so as to require that cosmetics manufacturers and distributors disclose the ingredients on the labels. The government opted for an approach that would provide transparency for consumers so that consumers could know more about the products they use and see whether they contain PVCs. On this, I agree completely with the hon. member. We have to make sure that PVCs in cosmetics are banned, even if this is not necessarily what Health Canada recommended.

Lastly, the only reservation I have about the member's bill concerns medical devices. We know that some medical procedures present a higher risk of DEHP exposure, such as multiple transfusions of blood products and extracorporeal oxygenation in newborns, pregnant women or nursing mothers, multiple transfusions of blood products in general and also heart transplants or cardiopulmonary bypass procedures. We have to protect these groups at risk, but we have to make sure that people can continue receiving quality care. Before we issue a complete ban, particularly in connection with medical devices, we have to make sure that there are replacement products on the market. Otherwise, people's quality of life could be threatened.

The Institut national de santé publique du Québec even feels that until medical devices without phthalates are on the market, it is not recommended or even warranted to deprive the public of some types of treatments or procedures that can be beneficial to health and whose outcome outweighs the dangers of exposure.

In general, we will support the bill on two of the three categories of products mentioned. With regard to medical devices, we want assurances, before they are banned completely, that replacement products are available so that people will receive quality care.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate and to join with others who are supporting the good work done by my colleague, the member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley. I congratulate my colleague for bringing forward an issue that pertains to the health and well-being of our children. There is probably nothing more important that we could do as legislators than to protect the very youngest in our society from toxic and dangerous substances.

Mr. Speaker, you will know, since you were here long before I was, that this issue has been debated many times in the House. The last time I recall the debate was back in 1998 when my colleague, the member for Acadie--Bathurst, brought a motion to the House recommending that labelling be placed on all products that contained phthalates so that parents would know how to choose products that were safe for their kids.

In 1999, I brought forward Bill C-482 which was intended to amend the Hazardous Products Act to prohibit the sale and advertising of products that contained phthalates in certain quantities that were dangerous to young children.

We have been at this a long time and it is time for action.

What I find so interesting in today's debate is that back in 1999 when the Liberals were in government they used the same arguments against moving in this direction, acting on the precautionary principle, that the Conservatives are now enunciating. It is because they are in government and they are getting the same material from the same bureaucrats and the same political advice from industry heads and so on without thinking about the real issues here and what this place can do.

It is interesting to hear the Conservative member say that Health Canada took measures back in 1998. What did it do? It put out a warning. It put out an advisory. It encouraged industry to stop producing products that might be dangerous. However, no definitive action was taken to ensure that these products, which children chew on and which can be dangerous to their health and well-being, were removed.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

That's nonsense. It has already been banned.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

My colleague from the Conservative side says that it has been done but I beg to differ. It has not been done in terms of the scientific evidence that is available on all the toxins mentioned by my colleague from Skeena--Bulkley Valley on a widespread basis so that all children are not exposed to these very dangerous toxins.

As my colleague on the Liberal side said, the science is in. We have had numerous studies suggesting that we know enough about these phthalates to take more serious action to protect our children. We no longer need to second guess these studies. We do not need to suggest that all of the evidence is not in. We have the science and all we need is the political will of the government of the day to act on this advice and take much more decisive action than the feeble steps that were taken by the Liberals back in 1998 or 1999.

Where does all this lead us? After all these years of debate I hope we have a consensus to move forward with something much more definitive and clear in terms of legislative action. My colleague from Skeena--Bulkley Valley has suggested a clear route in terms of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I think he can address the Liberals' concerns about the use of CEPA and suggest that we will not slow down the process at all. We will take shortcuts or end runs but we can use CEPA for what it was intended and that is to protect human beings from products that are dangerous to our health and well-being.

We have a growing consensus. We have the most up to date science. We have many advocates who know the impact on children's health in terms of their abilities. We know the connection between the exposure to phthalates and the serious neurological problems and learning disabilities. Now is the time for action. We can do it now by voting in favour of the bill, sending it to committee, looking at some of the concerns that have been raised, fine tuning the process and taking a step forward.

It is critical that we act decisively to protect our children and to build a strong marketable economy. Other countries have taken serious actions on this issue and they have not lost economic growth or business opportunities. The numerous countries that have chosen to act in a more decisive way than Canada have benefited in the long run because they have acted in terms of prevention of health problems and not waited for serious issues to develop which are costly to our health care system.

The precautionary principle is one that we have tried to get the government of the day, whether Liberal or Conservative, to address over the years. The concept is simple: do no harm. It means do not allow products on the market, even though we are not sure about them, because we can always act afterwards but of course it is too late. It is instead to put the onus on industry, toy producers, manufacturers of soothers, plastic blood bags and whatever other plastic products are out there to ensure those products will not leach phthalates into the blood systems of young children who will then suffer serious consequences.

If we would just apply that one fundamental principle, which is so intrinsic to who we are as Canadians in terms of our Food and Drugs Act, we would be so much further ahead in terms of this nation and our future.

I urge everyone to support the bill so we can finally do what Canadians are counting on us to do.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The time provided for the consideration of private members’ business has now expired and the motion is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-2, An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this matter is now at the report stage and that we have been given the opportunity to examine these clauses individually. All of the ones that have been accepted and the ones that we are about to deal with now in this group do nothing except strengthen the bill. This is the most important legislation that Parliament has seen in some time in terms of bringing back accountability and transparency to government. I, quite frankly, am very pleased with all the cooperation the bill has received up to this point.

I am sure Canadians all across the country applaud when legislation of this nature is brought in. I am pleased to have the opportunity to add those words to this debate.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I will be putting the questions one at a time.

The question is on Motion No. 8. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

(Motion No. 8 agreed to)

The next question is on Motion No. 13. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.