Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination Act

An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Maria Minna  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health to make, within nine months after the coming into force of this enactment, a regulation to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List compiled under subsection 65(2) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 6, 2007 Passed That Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.

Royal AssentGovernment Orders

April 17th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

April 17, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Hon. Marshall Rothstein, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 17th day of April, 2008 at 3:01 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bills assented to are Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)--Chapter No. 12; Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999--Chapter No. 13; Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act--Chapter No. 14; and Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Canada Student Loans Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter No. 15.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2007 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have placed before the House Bill C-298 on the virtual elimination of perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS, as we call it. Also I want to thank all members of the House for their support of this bill. It is indeed a good feeling that, hopefully, one of the bad substances will be eliminated.

I concur with the hon. member who spoke earlier that it would be wonderful if the government would bring back the larger bill, the climate change bill, which all parties worked on prior to the prorogation of the House. This would allow us to address the overall problem of climate change in a more aggressive manner together. Members of the House have to work together because otherwise we cannot succeed.

In this particular case the interesting thing to note is that 3M, which is a private corporation, stopped manufacturing this product quite some time ago, having acknowledged a problem with it very early on. Sweden has called for a global ban on PFOS for some time now. As mentioned by other members, the reason is very clear. This is a very toxic chemical. It can cause breast cancer, liver cancer, thyroid cancer. It also affects the immune system and other things.

Because of its harmful effects and the levels currently found in our environment, Environment Canada and Health Canada recommended in October 2004 that the substance be defined as toxic and scheduled for virtual elimination from the environment, but that had not happened. I brought this bill forward because in the intervening time not a great deal had happened.

As I said, not only Sweden but the United States Environmental Protection Agency has called PFOS an unacceptable substance that should be eliminated to protect human health and the environment. Environment Canada agrees. Therefore, there is no reason to delay. Environment Canada has also determined that this chemical is inherently toxic and that it stays in the environment for extremely long periods of time. The tests have been done and the verdict has been in for some time.

This bill has received international attention on the issue of harmful chemicals. It is our hope that PFOS will be added to the Sweden Convention on Prohibited Organic Pollutants. We hope that the government will actually pursue that. It is very important that that happen.

We have worked closely with Canadian environmental groups in drafting this bill. There is a great deal of support for it in the House and elsewhere.

An Environmental Defence Canada report released in June 2006 reported on the testing of five Canadian families, the parents, grandparents and children, for the presence of 68 toxic chemicals. This illustrates the urgency of the situation as there are many others out there. PFOS was found in every participant in the study and the children had higher levels than their parents. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals because their bodies are growing and developing rapidly. This is extremely troubling.

Bill C-298 protects the health of our families and wildlife and helps to clean up our environment. I am pleased to see that this is one chemical which hopefully will be eliminated.

However, I would also urge the government to bring back the larger bill that all parties had agreed to prior to the summer break and prorogation so that we can actually address in a more aggressive way the whole climate change issue. In the process we could also address more quickly all other chemicals that are still in the system and have not yet been dealt with.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on private member's Bill C-298, the perfluorooctane sulfonate virtual elimination act that was developed by the member for Beaches—East York. I want to thank her for getting the issue on the agenda.

It is very important that we have looked at this particular chemical that exists in our environment and has, I believe, been misused over the years. It is a very serious issue. I am glad we have made some significant progress on virtually eliminating it or that we will be moving to that shortly.

It was interesting listening to the member for Nanaimo—Alberni who talked about the process that the committee went through in working on this bill, some of the compromises and give and take that was made to this legislation to make it possible to gain support I gather in all corners of the House. Certainly, we in the NDP are supporting this legislation. I think that shows the kind of work that can be done in the House of Commons on legislation.

I wish that we had been able to muster that same kind of non-partisan cross-party effort on the big environmental bills of our day. It would be great if we could bring back the clean air and climate change act that had that same kind of cooperation through committee. Every party was allowed to bring its ideas to the table. The final document, the rewritten bill, reflected the ideas of all political parties in this place. Sadly, the government has refused to put it back on the agenda.

While we are making progress on this very specific chemical, we are missing progress on that very important and large piece of work on climate change that all Canadians recognize as crucial. It is going to be a sad day if we do not make progress in this Parliament on that big issue.

I also want to mention that Bill C-298 is similar in its intent and work to one that we passed last night at third reading, another private member's bill, Bill C-307, from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the phthalate control act, which also sought to limit the use of a particular chemical that was harmful to our environment and to our health.

I think we have been making progress again on some very specific issues but it is too bad we cannot get the big issue of our day, the climate change issue, back on the agenda of this place and make some real progress there.

With regard to the specific bill before us, it mandates the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health to make regulations that would keep the release of PFOS into the environment at a very low level where the substance actually cannot even be accurately measured. That is what it means to be put on the virtual elimination list. It is not being eliminated virtually, but it is going to be removed enough to a point where its presence in the environment is negligible. That is a very important step to take.

It seems that PFOS is one of those substances that seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a very popular substance when it was first introduced. It was used in many fabrics as a stain resistant substance, usually as a stain repellant. It was used in rugs, carpets, upholstery, clothing, food packaging, cleaners and in firefighting foams. It was used in very many places across our society. It was thought to be inert at the beginning.

Few tests were ever completed on the chemical's effects on people and wildlife and on the environment, but recently more testing has been done and it has been shown to have some very serious problems. For instance, animal testing was done. It was shown to be a carcinogen. It did cause certain kinds of cancers and damage to the immune system. That was an important step forward where we realized some of the harm that could be caused by PFOS.

This led, I think in the year 2000, to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States banning the substance. It said that continued manufacture and use of PFOS represented an unacceptable technology that should be eliminated to protect human health and the environment from potentially severe long term consequences. I know as well that Environment Canada and Health Canada agreed in their own studies and work on PFOS.

We also know that PFOS is bioaccumulative. It does not disappear; it persists in the environment once it is introduced there. That is a very serious consequence of the use of this particular chemical.

Environment Canada and Health Canada stated in the Canada Gazette:

PFOS has been detected throughout the world, including in areas distant from sources, and in virtually all fish and wildlife sampled in the northern hemisphere, including Canadian wildlife in remote sites, far from sources or manufacturing facilities of PFOS and its precursors.

We know that it is a very difficult substance to eliminate now that we have introduced it into our environment. We know that its health effects are very serious as well. It is persistent, it is bioaccumulative and it is toxic, all good reasons why we should be eliminating its use in our society.

This is a very important step to take. I gather from reading the original speeches by the member for Beaches—East York on this that there are proposals to eliminate this substance globally. Sweden has proposed a global ban on PFOS as part of the persistent organic pollutants treaty, which is being discussed. I hope that Canada, given the steps that it seems we are about to take with it, will strongly support Sweden in those efforts because it is an action that needs to be taken.

We need to act quickly on this. Originally it looked as though it could take years for this to take place, even if we took the actions suggested in this legislation. We need to make sure this process is expedited so that PFOS is eliminated as soon as possible and not allowed to continue to do the harm it does to our health and the environment.

This bill points out some of the difficulties with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and how hard it is to get a harmful substance on the virtual elimination list. We are acting seven years after the Americans acted on this issue, which shows that our mechanisms are much slower, even though our own agencies such as Health Canada and Environment Canada conducted their own studies that showed the importance of taking this step.

I hope this bill will also improve our ability to react on other chemical substances that we should be concerned about for our health and the environment. I hope that this will be part of the review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act so that we can make sure this weakness in our legislation and in our approach can be cleaned up and improved.

I am hoping that we are taking an important step. It sounds as though we may have unanimity in this place, as we did last night when we voted on final reading of Bill C-307. Everyone in the House agreed to that similar measure going forward.

As I conclude, I would still like to challenge members that even though we are making progress on these very specific chemical compounds, we must also make progress on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The best way for us in Parliament to do that would be to bring back the legislation that was worked on in the first session by all political parties, where all the ideas were brought to the table and a new piece of legislation was written. We need to get that back on the agenda of the House of Commons. I would urge the government to do that without delay. If we leave this Parliament without having moved in a significant way on climate change, we will have missed the important opportunity to do something significant for our environment and the citizens of Canada.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2007 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter the debate and to speak to Bill C-298, which is a very important act. Bill C-298 is an enactment that would require the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health to make, within nine months after the coming into force, a regulation to add perflurooctane sulfonate, or as the member before mentioned, PFOS, as it is sometimes called to save the tongue a little twisting, and its salts to the virtual elimination list compiled under section 65(2) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The act may also be cited as the perflurooctane sulfonate virtual elimination act.

I am pleased to say that the government supports the bill.

The government is committed to taking strong action to protect Canadians and our environment from the possible harmful effects of chemical substances. That is why we announced, in December of last year, a new $300 million investment in the Government of Canada's chemicals management plan, a plan that will maintain Canada among the foremost leaders in chemical management internationally, and a plan that was well received both by industry and by the environmental and health groups. We are now implementing it in earnest.

One of the first substances to receive our attention, under the chemical management plan, was perflurooctane sulfonate, or PFOS. There is concern over this substance and what the government is doing about it domestically and with international partners.

When Bill C-298 was introduced last year, the government had not yet announced the chemical management plan or its proposed actions on PFOS. I therefore congratulate the member for Beaches—East York for bringing this issue forward. The bill has an important purpose, to recognize that PFOS is one of those substances that should be virtually eliminated because it can persist for long periods of time in the environment and it can accumulate in food chains. Substances with these characteristics are among the highest priority substances in our chemical management plan.

As PFOS is a high concern substance for which the weight of evidence supports that it is both persistent and bioaccumulative, the government supports the idea that it should be added to the list. However, as Bill C-298 was originally drafted, it would have not only required the addition of PFOS to the virtual elimination list under CEPA, but it would also have required the costly development of an ineffective approach to pursuing the objective of virtual elimination. The government therefore did not support the original wording of the bill.

To understand this more fully, it is important to understand both the requirement that would have been put into place and the principal route of entry of PFOS into the environment.

PFOS was used in formulations of stain and grease repellents that were applied to all kinds of fabrics, carpets, jackets, sofa covers, name it. It was also used to make firefighting foams more effective and to suppress fumes in certain industrial applications. This wide variety of uses meant that PFOS was entering the environment from thousands of very small sources.

However, since it is a commercial substance, intentionally added to things, we have the ability to stop it simply by putting in place a regulation that says we will not manufacture, import, sell or use the substance any more. That is what we have proposed to do under CEPA. We are expecting to finalize that regulation this year.

The bill would have required the government to develop and publish a level of quantification for PFOS. A level of quantification refers to the lowest amount of the substance that can be detected using sensitive but routine chemical analysis methods.

The bill would also have required the development of a regulation concerning the quantity or concentration of the substance that may be released into the environment, either alone or in combination with any other substance, from any source or type of source, a type of regulation sometimes referred to as a release limit regulation.

The problem is in the case of a commercial substance like PFOS, it can be very difficult to define and regulate the sources of release. And, when considered in the context of our proposed regulation to prohibit the substance in Canada, it adds no value. Indeed, by prohibiting the production, import or use of PFOS, we will be acting to eliminate potential sources of its release.

I will also add that requirements to develop limits of quantification or release limit regulations are not specific to this bill. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act contains similar requirements to publish levels of quantification and develop release limit regulations for substances that are put on the virtual elimination list.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the same committee that considered this bill, has also just produced its report on the five year review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. In that report, the committee specifically identified three requirements as problematic. PFOS is a case in point. Moreover, the committee recommended that the act should recognize that prohibition regulations were an option toward achieving the objective of virtual elimination. We are proposing just that in the case of PFOS.

At committee, the committee therefore proposed several important changes to the bill. We still wanted to put PFOS on the virtual elimination list, but we did not want to create obligations to waste taxpayer money or complicate the regulatory environment with ineffective regulation. Working carefully with the member for Beaches—East York, we developed amendments such that the bill would still require the government to put PFOS on the virtual elimination list, but without the requirement to publish the level of quantification or develop a release limit regulation.

Another important amendment we made was to ensure that the bill would address the same substances the government had identified as priorities through its scientific risk assessment. The risk assessment identified PFOS itself, but also several related compounds, which are salts of PFOS, as toxic, persistent and biocumulative. Bill C-298 therefore was amended to address PFOS and its salts.

Finally, CEPA puts the onus of implementing the virtual elimination on both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health. We therefore proposed an amendment to ensure that both ministers were identified in this case, both for consistency and because in the long run these persistent and biocumulative substances might be of concern to both people and to the environment.

I am pleased to say that the government supports the bill and will be very pleased to see this compound added to the virtual elimination list. It will improve the environment for Canadians and will take this substance virtually out of circulation, out of the bodies of Canadians and out of the environment, which will be good for all of us.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2007 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will. In my earlier remarks I talked about when I was the vice-chair of the environment committee. My colleague should be aware that CEPA is a very important regulatory body and that this is not one of the chemicals that needs to go through a CEPA review.

Therefore, there is the relevancy of the environment committee, what we do about the environment, what action the government wants to take on the environment and its failure to show leadership on issues that affect global warming. This is all relevant to the issue of the environment. Bill C-298 is also about that. It is one piece of the larger pie on how to deal with environmental contamination and issues that affect our health.

Bill C-298 is a meaningful step forward. I am honoured to speak in support of the excellent bill introduced by the member for Beaches—East York and I encourage all members to support it as well. We are talking about our environment, our health, our future and that of our country.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, let me take this opportunity, and it is an opportunity that very few of us in this House sometimes take, to congratulate, to honour and to pay homage to our colleagues who in fact do good work in this House. It is too easy for us in the House to criticize one another, but there are many of us who do good work on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of people across this country.

One of these of course is the hon. member for Beaches—East York who has an illustrious career both in defence of immigrants and refugees across the country, and of women's issues along with her care and passion about the environment.

One of these bills that she has introduced, her private member's Bill C-298, is such a bill. I would like to lend again my support and also to congratulate her and to pay homage to her for her long career of service to Canadians and to people across the country.

I am pleased once again to have this opportunity to speak on the issue of perfluorooctane use, specifically with respect to Bill C-298 introduced by my colleague, the member for Beaches—East York. This bill would add perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, to the list of chemicals on the virtual elimination list.

As I have done previously, I believe it is important to recognize the very real dangers of PFOS. The fact is that it never degrades and in fact this substance accumulates in the human body. Chemicals like PFOS are toxic to our bodies and to our environment. The government needs to take the action of supporting Bill C-298 as a necessary and prudent beginning.

Having served as the vice-chair of the environment committee, I heard a great deal of testimony on important environmental issues, including the need to expand the virtual elimination list. During my time on the committee, it was also obvious that the government will say and do anything in order to avoid taking real action on the environment.

While in opposition, the Conservatives called the Kyoto accord a socialist plot and fought against it publicly while disputing the signs of global warming. It is therefore not surprising that the Conservatives have cancelled successful and efficient environmental programs like the one tonne challenge.

The government claims that these programs were wasteful, despite the fact that the opposite position was taken by the independent Environment Commissioner. The government considers any investment in fighting global warming wasteful because it really does not consider global warming a problem. This is clearly a disconnect not only from what we on this side of the House know to be true but what the vast majority of Canadians know to be reality.

The Conservatives like to pretend that they are taking action on the environment, when in reality all they are doing is producing more hot air. In fact, they are on their third failed environmental plan since they have taken office. Moreover, when the House of Commons committee, including Conservative members, drafted a real and effective plan for the environment, the government did everything it could to obstruct the bill from becoming law.

How could it possibly get worse? Now we see the government has taken its environmental denial tour on the road. During the Commonwealth summit in Uganda, the Prime Minister was given the shameful credit for having derailed a plan that would have created binding targets.

What was his reason for this? The Prime Minister says it is because the plan did not include China or the United States. It is interesting to note that it was a Commonwealth meeting and neither of these two countries are even member states.

The Leader of the Opposition, indeed the member for Beaches—East York--

The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I was pleased to be able to work with my colleagues to make this bill something that we can all support, and I am particularly pleased that we were able to strengthen it.

I appreciate the comments made by my colleagues on the environment committee about this bill. My assignment to the environment committee was one of the first bills I was able to get out of there, and that was a pleasure for me.

Bill C-298 seeks to add PFOS and its salts to the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I am pleased to say that we are taking serious action on toxic substances.

As my colleague, the member for Wetaskiwin, mentioned earlier, our government introduced its chemicals management plan in December of last year as part of our commitment to taking strong action to protect Canadians and our environment from the possible harmful effects of chemical substances.

We invested $300 million in our chemicals management plan, a plan that will maintain Canada among the foremost leaders in chemicals management internationally. That plan was well received by both industry and environmental and health groups. We are now implementing it.

I will quote briefly from that plan. It states:

Chemical substances are everywhere around us—in the environment, our food, clothes, and even our bodies. Many of these chemical substances are used to improve the quality of our lives. Most of these chemical substances are not harmful to the environment or human health. However, some have the potential to cause harm, in certain doses, and should only be used when the risks are appropriately managed.

[Our] Chemicals Management Plan will improve the degree of protection against hazardous chemicals. It includes a number of new, proactive measures to make sure that chemical substances are managed properly.

We felt that PFOS was one of those substances we needed to take action on, and that is what we did. In fact, one of the first substances to receive our attention under that plan was PFOS.

My colleague has just explained why there is concern over this substance and what the government is doing about it domestically and with our international partners.

Bill C-298 has an important purpose, namely to recognize that PFOS is one of those substances that should be virtually eliminated, because it can persist for long periods of time in the environment, and it can accumulate in food chains. Substances with these characteristics are among the highest priority substances in our chemicals management plan.

As PFOS is a high concern substance for which the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that it is both persistent and bioaccumulative, the government supported the idea that it should be added to the list.

However, there were some issues with Bill C-298 as it was originally drafted. That is why the government proposed a series of important amendments.

The original bill would have not only required the addition of PFOS to the virtual elimination list under CEPA, but also have the costly development of an ineffective approach to pursuing the objective of virtual elimination. The government therefore could not support that original wording.

To understand this more fully, it is important to understand both the requirement that would have been put in place, and the principle route of entry of PFOS into the environment.

PFOS was used in formulations of stain and grease repellents that were applied to all kinds of fabrics such as carpets, jackets, sofa covers, just name it. As members heard from my colleague, it was also used to make firefighting foams more effective and to suppress fumes in certain industrial applications.

The wide variety of highly diffuse uses meant that PFOS was entering the environment from thousands of very small sources. However, since it is a commercial substance, intentionally added to things, we have the ability to stop it simply by putting in place a regulation that says we will not manufacture, import, sell or use the substance any more. That is what we have proposed to do under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and we expect to finalize that regulation this year.

The bill would have required the government to develop and publish a level of quantification for PFOS. A level of quantification refers to the lowest amount of the substance that can be detected using sensitive but routine chemical analysis methods.

The bill would have required the development of a regulation concerning the quantity or concentration of the substance that may be released into the environment either alone or in combination with any other substance from any other source or type of source, a type of regulation sometimes referred to as a release limit regulation.

In the case of commercial substances like PFOS, the problem is it can be very difficult to define and regulate the sources of release. When considered in the context of our proposed regulation to prohibit the substance in Canada, it really adds no value. Indeed, by prohibiting the production, import or use of PFOS, we will be acting to eliminate potential sources of the release.

I would add that requirements to develop limits of quantification, or LOQs as they are called, or release limit regulations are not specific to this bill. CEPA contains similar requirements to publish LOQs and develop release limit regulations for substances that are put on the virtual elimination list.

However, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the same committee that considered this bill, has also produced its report on the five-year review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In that report, the committee specifically identified these requirements as problematic. PFOS is a case in point. Moreover, the committee recommended that the act should recognize that prohibition regulations are an option toward achieving the objective of virtual elimination. We are proposing just that in the case of PFOS.

At committee, the government therefore proposed several important changes to the bill. We still wanted to put PFOS on the virtual elimination list, but we did not want to create obligations that would waste taxpayers' money or complicate the regulatory environment with ineffective regulations.

Therefore, we proposed amendments such that the bill will still require the government to put PFOS on the virtual elimination list, but without the requirement to publish a level of quantification, or develop a release limit regulation.

Another important amendment we made was to make sure that the bill addressed the same substances the government had identified as priorities through its scientific risk assessment. The risk assessment identified PFOS itself but also several related compounds, which are salts of PFOS as toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. Bill C-298 therefore was amended to address PFOS and its salts.

Finally, CEPA put the onus of implementing virtual elimination on both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health. We therefore proposed an amendment to this bill to make sure that both ministers were identified in this case, both for consistency and because in principle in the long run these persistent and bioaccumulative substances may be of concern to both people and the environment.

In conclusion, we are pleased that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development was able to amend this bill, to make it something that we can support. We are committed to taking action against toxic substances, and this is further proof that this government is a government of action.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Beaches—East York for her efforts in working with the committee to implement amendments that allowed the committee to successfully get this bill through.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-298, an Act to add PFOS to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

I would like to make it immediately clear that we are in favour of this bill, which aims, as I said, to add PFOS to the list of substances for virtual elimination. First of all, what is PFOS? The principal applications for PFOS and its precursors are for water, oil, soil and grease repellents for use on surface and paper-based applications, such as rugs and carpets, fabric and upholstery and food packaging, as well as use in specialized chemical applications, such as carpet spot removers, surfactants such as detergents, hydraulic fluids, mining and oil-well emulsifiers and other specialized chemical formulations.

In Canada, there is no known manufacture of perfluorinated alkyl compounds, including PFOS. Approximately 600 tonnes of perfluorinated alkyl compounds were imported into Canada. PFOS represent only a very small percentage of the total amount of perfluorinated alkyl compounds currently imported into Canada.

What are the effects of PFOS? According to the available data, PFOS penetrates the environment in quantities or in conditions that may immediately or in the long term have a harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity. The presence of this product in the environment is chiefly due to human activities, and these inorganic substances do not occur naturally in the environment.

As our colleagues said a few minutes ago, we know that as early as 2004, the government announced in Part I of the Canada Gazette that it intended to add PFOS to the list of toxic substances and recommend its virtual elimination. The notice invited comments from the public for a 60-day period. Unfortunately, to date, schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection Act has yet to be amended to include PFOS. One might think that the government had heard from industry, asking that the government defer adding it to the list.

The real question we have to ask ourselves in studying this bill is why it took two years for the government to see the importance of adding this substance to the virtual elimination list. In the meantime, many people continued to have access to this substance, even though it is very clear that it has a harmful effect on the environment and biological diversity.

One has to wonder whether this long delay was due to a lack of will on the part of the administration, which was certainly under pressure by the industries concerned to delay designating PFOS as a toxic substance. It is unacceptable that this delay should be considered standard or due to red tape. It is indeed unacceptable to take nearly two years to restrict the use of a substance proven to be harmful. It is the federal government's duty to ensure that, once they have been assessed as harmful, substances are regulated without delay.

I would also like to mention phosphates in dishwasher and laundry detergents that are still available in our grocery stores. Why is the government taking so long to ban these phosphate-containing products when everyone knows that they are the main cause of a phenomenon that is affecting over 160 lakes in Quebec: cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.

As everyone knows, on May 12, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development passed a Bloc Québécois motion to force the government to adopt regulations banning products containing phosphates. Unfortunately, all summer, the government turned a deaf ear to a majority of parliamentarians demanding this ban. During that time, more of Quebec's lakes than ever before have been contaminated.

I would like to assure my colleagues that in the next few days, the Bloc Québécois will introduce a bill in this House to ban dishwasher detergents that contain phosphates. We hope that the government will pay attention this time and support the Bloc Québécois' bill, because this is a huge problem. Many other countries, such as Switzerland, have brought in regulations to address this issue.

We have to act now to protect our lakes and rivers. We also have to ensure that parliamentarians have a political arena in which they can introduce strict regulations to fight the degradation of our environment and our ecosystems.

In closing, I am pleased to support the member for Beaches—East York's Bill C-298. However, it is appalling that the government has waited more than three years to act on this issue even though it had access to all the studies at Environment Canada.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2007 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-298, the perfluorooctane sulfonate virtual elimination act.

The bill seeks to add perfluorooctane sulfonate and its salts to the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I am pleased to say that the government supports the bill as it has been amended.

Let me explain what the government is doing to protect Canadians and their environment from PFOS and related chemicals and why we are taking action. The departments of the environment and of health undertook an extensive environmental assessment of PFOS, its salts and its precursors, which concluded that PFOS is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic under CEPA, 1999.

PFOS has been detected in many wildlife species worldwide. Field evidence has identified high concentrations of PFOS accumulating in the liver and blood of fish-eating mammals and birds in the Canadian Arctic far from known sources or manufacturing facilities. PFOS concentrations in polar bears are higher than any other previously reported concentrations of other persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals. Current levels show that some wildlife organisms such as polar bears and some bird species could be near or at levels of effect and could be harmed by current exposures to PFOS

Since the government concluded its scientific risk assessment in the summer of 2006, the government has acted quickly and taken very strong action to prevent the risks from PFOS and its salts and certain other related compounds. These actions address a broad group of approximately 60 known substances in Canada and approximately 120 known substances internationally.

On December 16, 2006 the government published the proposed perfluorooctane sulfonate and its salts and certain other compounds regulations. These regulations propose to prohibit the manufacture, use, sale and import of PFOS and related substances, as well as products and formulations containing these chemicals.

Temporary five year exemptions have been proposed to allow the use of firefighting foams and the sale, use and import of fume suppressants used in the metal plating sector. These actions will prohibit the vast majority of historic PFOS uses immediately and allow for the orderly transition to alternative products for critical applications.

In the case of firefighting foams, the five years will allow users to replace their PFOS containing products without compromising fire safety. For fume suppressants used in metal plating, the five years will allow for the development of alternative formulations. Alternatives to PFOS in this application currently do not exist and we want to provide a phase-out period so that emissions of other harmful substances are minimized.

In comparison with actions taken by other international jurisdictions, the Government of Canada's proposed regulatory approach represents the most comprehensive action to manage PFOS, its salts and other compounds.

We will also conduct environmental and human monitoring domestically to ensure that our objectives are met.

In addition to domestic regulations, the government will also work with international partners to manage the global concerns surrounding PFOS.

Canada is engaged in multinational efforts to address the risks posed by this substance. For example, Canada is actively leading in technical and policy discussions relating to the proposed regional and global restrictions on PFOS. Such restrictions would be taken as a result of the nomination of PFOS to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Protocol on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution and its nomination to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Furthermore, Canada is actively engaged at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forums to share information and promote action on these chemicals. Canada will continue to engage our international partners in global action on PFOS to complement our domestic policy. Supporting these efforts is critical to addressing the long range transport of PFOS into the Canadian environment.

In terms of monitoring, the Department of Environment and the Department of Health are also committed to research and monitoring of PFOS and related chemicals. This research is to ensure that the actions being proposed are making a difference in the Canadian environment and among the Canadian people and to generate relevant information on current and emerging risks associated with these chemicals.

In December 2006 the government announced its chemicals management plan which included significant resources for research and monitoring. The plan, a comprehensive strategy to manage chemicals in Canada, includes a major investment in research and monitoring. The work under the chemicals management plan, which has already been started, will help inform the government and the public on the effectiveness of the PFOS regulations and help to ensure new and emerging risks are identified.

Allow me to read a section on PFOS under our chemical management plan:

The Government of Canada published a proposed order to add PFOS to the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 on July 1, 2006. A proposed risk management strategy has also been published. This strategy outlines the Government of Canada's proposed actions to prevent the re-introduction of PFOS into the Canadian market and address the remaining uses in order to reduce or eliminate releases of PFOS into the environment.

At the same time, with the significant reduction in global PFOS production that began in 2000, exposure sources have been reduced and may eventually be eliminated. Since some PFOS production is known to still occur globally, the Government of Canada is continuing to work with other countries to encourage reduction and, eventually, elimination of PFOS manufacturing. Proposed regulations addressing PFOS are expected to be issued by the end of 2006.

The government has acted in developing actions on PFOS since the conclusions of the environmental assessment were finalized in July 2006.

Under the current regulatory process established by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, a proposed regulation or control instrument must be developed within 24 months of proposing a substance to be added to schedule 1. Once proposed, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health have a further 18 months to finalize the regulation or instrument. Typically, this would result in a period of 42 months, or three and one-half years. The government is well on its way in accomplishing this for PFOS in under one and one-half years.

In conclusion, we are pleased that the environment committee was able to amend this bill to make it something that we can support.

We are committed to taking action against toxic substances. This is just further proof that this is indeed a government of action. We are cleaning up the environment for the sake of the health of our environment and for the health of all Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable in our population.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2007 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

moved that Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to again debate this bill . I am very proud to be here. The bill represents an important step in protecting the health of Canadians and our environment. Bill C-298 seeks to eliminate from our environment a chemical that poses a threat to the health of Canadians.

With a few minor amendments in committee, the bill passed with unanimous support before prorogation. I look forward to its passage in the House of Commons with similar support this time around.

PFOS is one of a larger class of chemicals known as PFCs. The full name for this particular chemical, PFOS, is perfluorooctane sulfonate. As members can hear, it is a mouthful. These chemicals are mainly used in consumer products for their non-stick, stain repellent and water repellent properties. PFOS itself is used mostly as a stain repellent in various consumer products as well as in certain industrial applications.

This chemical is used in rugs, carpets, fabric, upholstery, clothing, food packaging and certain industrial and household cleaners. Other applications include firefighting foams, hydraulic fluids, carpet spot removers, mining and oil well applications, and metal plating processes such as chrome plating.

PFOS was in Scotchgard products made by 3M. 3M voluntarily stopped using PFOS in 2000 at the urging of the U.S. EPA, citing the health and environmental dangers posed by the chemical. That is interesting. It is very rare for an industry to actually stop using a product before it is banned by the government.

PFOS has been studied by many countries and international bodies that have concluded PFOS is a threat to human health and the environment. It is more persistent in the environment than both DDT and PCBs. All of the studies have shown this consistently.

It is also persistent in the human body. In fact, it takes at least eight years for it to work its way out of the human body. Even if we eliminated PFOS from our environment immediately, it would take eight years, on average, for our bodies to get rid of half of the PFOS in our system.

In April 2004, Environment Canada and Health Canada completed their own assessments of PFOS and came to essentially the same conclusion. There are four basic questions that we need to ask when deciding whether a chemical poses a sufficient risk to human health and the environment such that it should be regulated.

First, is the substance inherently toxic? That is, does it pose a health risk for humans or wildlife? Second, does it persist for long periods of time in the environment without breaking down into harmless compounds? Third, does it bioaccumulate? In other words, does it become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain? Finally, is it used widely enough or in such a manner that there is a serious risk of human exposure?

Unfortunately, PFOS meets all of these criteria.

Bill C-298 seeks the virtual elimination of PFOS from our environment. Virtual elimination has a specific meaning under CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which is laid out in section 65 of the act. It means that the substance cannot be released into the environment at any level or concentration that cannot be accurately measured using sensitive but routine sampling and analytical methods. Essentially, the chemicals should not be entering the environment at any level that is detectable using the best commonly available measurement techniques.

Other countries have already taken action to protect their citizens and their environment from exposure to PFOS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, banned the use of PFOS in 2000. With the exception of a few very specific applications, other countries have since moved to ban or severely restrict the use of PFOS.

Sweden has proposed a global ban on the substance under the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants, sometimes called the POPs treaty. The POPs committee is now moving forward with its consideration of PFOS to decide if it should be included under the Stockholm treaty.

PFOS belongs to this list of resistant organic pollutants banned under the Stockholm treaty, but in the meantime we need to deal with it here at home. We simply cannot allow Canada to lag behind when it comes to protecting human health and the environment. We must act now, not later, to protect Canadians from exposure to PFOS. That is the objective of this bill. I hope that all parties and all members will support the bill.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2007 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at report stage of Bill C-298, under private members' business.

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, be concurred in.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.