Phthalate Control Act

An Act respecting bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate

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

Nathan Cullen  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of June 19, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment requires that, within 12 months after it comes into force, regulations respecting cosmetics that contain bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate be made under subsection 30(1) of the Food and Drugs Act.

The enactment also requires that, within 12 months after it comes into force, an order be made under section 6 of the Hazardous Products Act to add certain products to Part I of Schedule I to that Act.

The enactment further requires the Minister of Health to take steps to regulate the use and labelling of medical devices that contain bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate.

Finally, the enactment requires the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health to complete a reassessment of benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 within 24 months after the enactment comes into force.

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.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all the parties and I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to pass the motion for Bill C-307 unanimously.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2007 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-307 under private members' business.

The House resumed from November 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act respecting bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate, be read the third time and passed.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.
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Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to Bill C-307. It is also an honour for me to be part of a government that takes its responsibilities, works with them and works with the opposition parties to ensure this minority government works in a truly effective manner.

Much has been said about committees not working or functioning as well as they could be. The truth is, when we get the cooperation from the opposition parties on committees, they work extremely well. This is a case in point when we look at Bill C-307.

We took a bill that was seriously flawed and when we received the cooperation from the opposition parties, under the leadership of maybe the best environment minister we have had in centuries, along with his very able parliamentary secretary, it was made into legislation that could be truly effective to ensure the health of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

This should be an example to the opposition to quit the obstruction in the other committees. We can make some progress if we can only get the cooperation of our members opposite.

I will not go into the technicalities of the bill. I congratulate our minister and his parliamentary secretary and all members of the committee for their cooperation. I urge my colleagues to continue this cooperation and ensure that this minority government succeeds.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2007 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague who spoke earlier, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak about this important piece of proposed legislation.

Before I begin to speak about Bill C-307, I would like to congratulate my Liberal colleagues in Ontario for addressing the issue of potentially harmful chemicals.

As has been publicized, the Ontario McGuinty government's new toxins reduction strategy includes a range of measures to protect the health of Ontarians. Instead of waiting for the government to act, the provincial government in Ontario will appoint an expert medical and scientific panel to advise which toxins should be the focus of immediate attention, action and possible reductions. The Ontario government intends to do this immediately while new toxin reduction legislation is in the developmental stage.

An early priority for the expert panel will be to provide recommendations on how best to address bisphenol A, widely used, as we have heard, in plastic baby bottles and similar consumer products.

The Ontario government is also undertaking a number of initiatives that will be included under a toxins reduction strategy to help protect Ontarians from potentially harmful environmental toxins, including: first, legislation to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides, to be introduced in the spring of next year; second, working with Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association to identify, target and reduce the number of cancer-causing agents released into our environment; third, the imposition of tough new standards to reduce the amount of harmful air emissions on 14 toxins; fourth, replacing coal-fired electricity in Ontario, phasing it out completely by 2014; and last, implementing new province-wide standards and rules to protect children from exposure to elevated lead levels that may be present in the drinking water system of older neighbourhoods, older schools and older day care centres or facilities.

The Ontario government is already receiving praise for this recent announcement from various groups, including Environmental Defence and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Ontario for putting the health of Ontarians first.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my federal Liberal colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. His private member's bill, Bill C-439, proposes to prohibit the use of bisphenol A in certain products and to correspondingly amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

There is considerable data which suggests that any exposure to bisphenol A is damaging to human health. It appears that the risks of using this toxic chemical outweigh the benefits. I believe the government should act now to regulate a ban on bisphenol A.

Surely Bill C-307 should warrant the same attention as Bill C-439, and it is my hope that the House will support both of these important pieces of proposed legislation.

After considerable discussion, debate and amendments in committee, Bill C-307, the phthalate control act, is now a strong bill, which all parties should certainly consider supporting.

I would like to congratulate the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his ongoing contribution to the toxins debate in Canada, particularly with regard to phthalates. I would also like to congratulate the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, including, of course, my Liberal colleagues, who have played a very important role in facilitating the successful outcome of the committee deliberations.

Bill C-307 deals with three major chemical compounds, part of a large group of chemicals known as phthalates. These substances, which were examined under the bill, are DEHP, BBP and DBP. For those of us without a scientific background, they are plasticizers, substances which enhance flexibility in plastic compounds. They are used in thousands of products, ranging from children's toys to medical devices to cosmetics.

Studies have linked such substances to infertility and other health related issues, but the three substances considered in Bill C-307 have been evaluated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the past. One of the substances of the three, DEHP, was in fact designated toxic through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The environment and sustainable development committee has heard that not all types of exposure were in fact evaluated by the federal government studies when looking at the other two substances. Therefore, proposed Bill C-307 calls for a more comprehensive reassessment that will include exposure through the use of consumer products, including cosmetics. This will help ensure the assessment of the cumulative effects of these substances on human beings.

Something which we are just beginning to grapple with in the scientific community is the question of whether we are able to measure a multiplicity of exposures, these compounds themselves, or how these compounds interact with other compounds, which are in our environment at large in Canada. Essentially, the study is of the cumulative effects of all these factors in combination with one another.

As I mentioned earlier, phthalates are found in thousands of products in our environment such as toys, medical devices, cosmetics, but also in many other items such as shower curtains and the vinyl that we find in products, for instance the vinyl dashboard in motor vehicles. We are concerned by the multiple exposure to phthalates, which perhaps in isolation may not have the impact which is feared on human health, but in combination can be particularly toxic. These repeated exposures could be enough to cause harm to human health.

We know that certain other countries, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned previously, including the entire European Union, have tighter restrictions on chemicals such as phthalates than Canada currently does. It is also fair to say that when Bill C-307 arrived at committee this past March, all members were in favour of closer scrutiny of these compounds, but the now amended Bill C-307 is in better form than it earlier was.

All members of the environment and sustainable development committee should be commended for introducing and passing amendments to the bill. It is our hope that the House will see fit to pass this important legislation.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-307, the Phthalate Control Act, essentially seeks to better control, if not to forbid, the use of phthalates in a wide range of commonly used objects because those substances represent a risk to the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

The initial text of the bill obliged the Minister of the Environment to make regulations prohibiting the use of three types of phthalates. The prohibition applies first to BBP, which is found in many products for use by a child in learning or play, and products that are put in the mouth of an infant when used. The second product the bill seeks to prohibit is DBP, which is quite often found in cosmetics as well as in the products mentioned previously that are put in the mouth of a child or infant when used. The third product this bill seeks to prohibit is DEHP, which is also found in cosmetics, but especially in medical devices. However, the bill excludes blood bags from this prohibition.

Furthermore, the purpose of the bill is to amend Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, to include the three aforementioned products, BBP, DBP and DEHP, on the list of toxic substances.

Phthalates are part of a family of chemical products mainly intended for industrial use. Phthalates are found in a number of common consumer products such as adhesives, vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, capacitors, detergents, solvents, pharmaceutical products, electrical wires and cables and cosmetic products such as perfume, deodorant, shaving lotion, shampoo, hair spray and nail polish.

The use of phthalates as softening agents is another common application for these products. Most PVC-based—that is, polyvinyl chloride—rigid, semi-rigid and flexible articles also contain phthalates.

The proportion of phthalates can be as high as 50% in some products, for example, plastic bags, window frames, food wrap, raincoats, shower curtains, rubber boots, garden hoses, bath toys and medical devices.

The toxicity level of phthalates varies depending on the kind of compound. DEHP phthalates have a higher toxicity potential than the other two. The main effects of phthalates reported in experiments conducted on various animal species are testicular atrophy, decreased fertility and a lower fetal weight. Some researchers also believe that phthalates can be carcinogenic.

According to a report by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, experts have concluded that BBP has little or no effect on reproduction and development. However, for DEHP and, to a lesser degree, DBP, the results arouse more concern. The use of various medical devices that contain DEHP raises some concern about the effects on the development of premature male babies who need intensive and prolonged care.

Let us now talk about the precautionary principle. This principle was officially recognized and confirmed by the international community in the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted at Rio in 1992, a convention that was ratified by Canada.

According to this principle, when there are sufficient grounds to believe that an activity or product could cause serious and irreversible damage to health or the environment, mitigation measures must be taken until the effects can be documented. Such measures may reduce or put an end to certain activities or ban certain products.

In Canada, these phthalates are no longer present in toys or objects that could be put in a child's mouth. In 1998, following a study of the risks associated with objects intended for children, Health Canada concluded that the amount of phthalates found in flexible PVC products could pose a risk to the health and safety of children. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have since been obliged to ensure that flexible plastic soothers and rattles are free of DEHP.

As to DEHP in some products designed for use in children's education, we think the precautionary principle demands that they be banned.

With respect to DEHP and phthalates in medical devices, we must protect at-risk groups by doing everything in our power to promote the use of alternative DEHP-free products. Nevertheless, until such phthalate-free medical devices are on the market, Quebec's public health institute does not recommend restricting access to certain treatments or procedures, because the health benefits outweigh the dangers associated with DEHP exposure. Until suitable substitutes become more readily available, we believe that it may be risky to ban DEHP in all medical devices, excluding blood bags.

I would now like to discuss phthalates in cosmetics. DEHP and DBP are present in perfume, deodorant, after-shave lotion, shampoo, aerosol sprays and nail polish.

Many environmental groups and consumer associations have strongly denounced the use of phthalates in cosmetics. According to Health Canada, DBP in cosmetics presents no health risks in concentrations of less than 10%. In 2004, Health Canada announced its intention to amend cosmetics regulations in order to require cosmetics manufacturers and distributors to list the ingredients on the product label. According to our investigation, this change, which would have at least informed the consumer, never went into effect.

To summarize, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-307. There has not been enough research to date on the effects of phthalates on human health. While awaiting more precise answers regarding the health risks associated with phthalates, the government should limit as much as possible the exposure of vulnerable populations to various chemical compounds, as a precautionary measure.

We note that some of the bans proposed in the original bill have been amended, since they went too far, given that reliable, effective and safe replacement products were unavailable for certain medical devices.

It has always been clear to the Bloc Québécois that implementation of the bill tabled by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley should not give rise to more health problems than it solves.

The Bloc Québécois position is supported by the Institut de santé publique du Québec, which stated in a 2004 report 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 to DEHP.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Bill C-307 responds to the concerns of the Institut de santé publique du Québec with respect to medical equipment and that it provides protection as well as fulfilling a need. We will support it.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we were last studying Bill C-307, the hon. member for Burlington had the floor and he has eight minutes remaining in debate.

The hon. member for Burlington.

The House resumed from November 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act respecting bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate, be read the third time and passed.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member who brought Bill C-307 forward. It is important and I know he wanted me to speak from my heart, so that is what I am going to do. He did not want me to speak from paper, so I am not going to speak from paper. I want to say why it is important.

It is important to my family. I have had a close family member, my mother actually, who has had very serious operations all her life, been in the hospital numerous times as a child, as a young adult and as an adult. She has very serious complications and issues that she has to deal with in relation to her health and the operations required.

Never in my life would I have every thought that we had to worry about the bags that were hanging from the gurneys and in the beds that were keeping her alive, and keeping her well, that there may have been other issues that I was not aware of other than the immediate issue facing my mother.

I appreciate that the member, and members of the House, have taken the time to study the issue, to look at what the problems might be with these things so that the public knows. What we are talking is some of the chemicals that go into those medical devices, and I use this as an example, that make those things flexible, to make them more usable.

The bill, once passed, would make some changes or potential changes based on scientific evidence, that will make it safer for my mother and women like her, that when they are in there for other serious issues, that they do not have to worry, and their families do not have--

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House today to speak on the third and final reading of Bill C-307, the proposed phthalate control act.

When the government took a look at the original bill, it was badly written and, quite frankly, was not a good legislation. However, I am happy to see that the government was able to significantly amend the bill into a form we could support.

As my hon. colleagues have already advised the House, our government supports Bill C-307 in its amended state.

The amended bill would ensure that the substances under consideration, known as BBP, DBP and DEHP, would continue to be managed through the existing process for dealing with substances that may pose a threat to the environment and to human health.

At the second reading debate, the government expressed concern that Bill C-307, as originally drafted, would circumvent the comprehensive scientific assessment of phthalates, by imposing an immediate and outright ban on the use of BBP, DBP and DEHP.

I am very pleased that the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has acknowledged the government's concerns and agrees to respect the scientific assessment process provided for under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, otherwise known as CEPA.

As we have heard today, the federal Departments of Environment and Health have already assessed the risks associated with the three subjects named in Bill C-307. Actions have been taken, where warranted.

Having said that, the government fully supports the reassessment of BBP and DBP within the next two years, provided that these assessments use the appropriate process, the CEPA review mechanism. We are also prepared to support additional regulatory measures to strengthen control of DEHP, which has been proven to have associated health risks.

Both of these measures are included in Bill C-307 and are consistent with the government's commitment to protect human health and the environment, as reiterated in the recent Speech from the Throne. They are also consistent with the government's chemical management plan, which I will discuss in more detail shortly.

I am pleased to confirm that Bill C-307 no longer subverts CEPA, which provides the framework for identifying, prioritizing and assessing existing substances for controlling or managing those considered to pose a risk to Canadians or the environment.

One of the stated goals of CEPA is to manage risk from substances. This recognizes the reality that, from time to time, we will come across substances that may pose a threat to the environment or to health but that also offer important benefits.

DEHP is such a substance. There are health concerns associated with human exposure, but a ban on DEHP could create severe problems for the medical community as there are currently no viable alternatives for this plasticizer in certain medical devices.

CEPA's management process relies on scientific evidence and comprehensive research and monitoring programs. The science around phthalates is constantly evolving, so we welcome the reassessments of BBP and DBP called for in the bill, Bill C-307, as they will help build our knowledge and support sound decision-making.

One particularly important aspect of the CEPA process is that the public and interested groups are given adequate notice about risk assessments that are planned or underway. They have also the opportunity to comment on the results before decisions are made. This public involvement element was lacking in Bill C-307 as originally presented to this House.

CEPA also allows for some flexibility in terms of risk management responses, taking into account not only environmental and health issues, but also social, economic and technological factors. Regulations are sometimes the answer, but not always. For example, Bill C-307 would provide for the development of clinical practice guidelines for using medical devices that contain DEHP.

The government is committed to working with all our partners to ensure that Canada is at the forefront of international chemicals management and that our citizens and our environment is protected.

Last December, we unveiled a chemicals management plan. This plan provides for immediate action to regulate chemicals that are harmful to human health or the environment, and is a key element of our government's comprehensive environmental and human health agenda. We have committed $300 million over four years to implement the chemicals management plan, which will build on Canada's position as a global leader in the safe management of chemical substances and products.

Taking action now will significantly reduce future costs associated with water treatment, the clean up of contaminated sites and treating illnesses related to chemical exposure. It will improve the quality of life of Canadians and better protect our environment. This plan will also improve the conditions for business in Canada by ensuring a level playing field and a predictable, science based regulatory regime.

It provides for strengthened regulations and enforcement, restrictions on reintroduction and new uses of controlled substances, rapid screening of lower risk chemical substances, accelerated re-evaluation of older pesticides, mandatory ingredient labelling of cosmetics, regulations to address environmental risks posed by pharmaceuticals and personal care products, enhanced management of environmental contaminants in food, health monitoring, surveillance and research, increased risk communications to the public and good stewardship of chemical substances.

Under the umbrella of the chemicals management plan, our government has developed a comprehensive strategy for phthalates that includes many of the measures provided for in Bill C-307. An example of that is the phthalate strategy includes reassessments of BBP and DBP under CEPA, the implementation of controls to protect children under the age of three and the development of clinical practice guidelines for medical devices containing DEHP. It also provides for the addition of DEHP to Health Canada's cosmetic ingredient hot list, as well as the assessment and risk management of other phthalates in cosmetics.

As part of the reassessment process, the government will be reviewing the scientific evidence used to support recent regulatory actions taken by the European Union on DEHP, BBP and DBP, among other phthalates. Our government will also continue to monitor the evolving science on the use of DEHP in medical devices and will take further actions, as required. I should point out that none of Canada's major trading partners, including the European Union, has prohibited DEHP in medical devices such as blood bags and intravenous tubes.

Our government will continue to monitor 11 phthalate metabolites and 8 parent phthalate compounds as part of the Canadian health measures survey. In addition, phthalates will be included in a proposed bio-monitoring study for children from birth to six years of age. Data from these studies will inform any future actions by the government.

In short, our government is already taking comprehensive action to assess and control phthalates and other potentially harmful substances. Because amended Bill C-307 is consistent with these actions and with our government's overall commitment to protecting Canadians and their environment, we will vote in favour of this legislation.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House to speak to the third and final reading of Bill C-307, An Act respecting bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate. I would like to thank the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for presenting this to the House.

Although I am pleased to speak in favour of this legislative proposal, it is important to note that, in its original form, the bill was poorly drafted. The government worked hard and is presenting this bill to the House with considerable changes that strike an effective balance between public health and environmental and economic considerations. Our changes have produced a stronger and more practical bill that still achieves its purpose of protecting health, especially that of young children.

As we have heard today, Bill C-307 addresses a group of chemicals known as phthalates. These compounds are commonly used as plasticizers to enhance flexibility in plastics. Phthalates are used in a wide range of products from medical devices such as blood bags and intravenous tubing, to cosmetics such as nail polish, to soft vinyl toys. The phthalates covered by the legislative proposal are known by their acronyms BBP, DBP and DEHP.

During debate at second reading of Bill C-307, the government had concerns about the original bill. It would have banned these three substances from the Canadian market, which was a position we could not support for a number of reasons. First, the peer reviewed scientific evidence did not support such a drastic measure. The three substances were reviewed as to their impact on the environment and on health. The results show that a ban would be neither necessary nor viable, economically speaking. In fact, such a strategy would place an unnecessary burden on manufacturers and could result in significant costs to the consumer and the medical community.

As mentioned during the debate at second reading, studies conducted in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 found that DBP, BBP and DEHP phthalates do not harm the environment. Specific studies of the impact of these three chemicals on health found that two of them, BBP and DBP, do not pose an excessive health risk. However, exposure to DEHP raises serious health concerns, particularly for children.

As my honourable colleague explained, measures were taken to protect the health of those most at risk, including children under the age of three. Canadian manufacturers voluntarily stopped using not only DEHP, but also all phthalates in products for babies that could be put into a child's mouth. Furthermore, Health Canada stated that DEHP is not currently being used in the production of cosmetics.

That being said, DEHP still has a number of important and necessary applications in Canada. For some products, such as medical and scientific devices, there are no viable substitutes for it. That is the second reason we cannot support a total ban, as originally proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. Health Canada's medical devices bureau has undertaken thorough studies of these compounds and has found that DEHP has a number of advantages that other plasticizers simply do not have.

Despite the potential effects of DEHP exposure on humans, its advantages outweigh the risks. This is the main reason we could not agree to a total ban at second reading. Now that the bill has been reworked, it allows the continued use of these products. It also provides for additional regulations governing the use of DEHP and for further studies of the other two chemicals. The government is prepared to support the bill.

The new provisions in clause 2 of Bill C-307 ensure an important balance within the bill. Clause 2.1 presents a minimum threshold under which a product or device will not be considered to contain any BBP, DBP or DEHP.

Clause 2.2 contains the precautionary principle. Where the threat of serious or irreversible damage results from the use of one of these phtalates, the Government of Canada cannot use a lack of full scientific certainty as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to protect human and environmental health.

Improving the environment and the health of Canadians was a central theme in the recent throne speech. To quote the document, “Our Government believes that action is needed now to ensure our quality of life, particularly for those most vulnerable to health threats from the environment—our children and seniors”.

It is from this perspective that we can accept the amendments made to clause 3 of Bill C-307. Clearly, further measures are needed, in addition to the existing voluntary measures, to help reduce Canadians' exposure to DEHP.

In accordance with the precautionary principle previously cited, clause 3 requires the Governor in Council to adopt regulations under the Food and Drugs Act in order to govern the use of DEHP in cosmetics. As already mentioned by my hon. colleague, these measures will specify that DEHP may not be used in new formulations of cosmetics and will allow Health Canada to take quick and decisive action if this prohibition is contravened. This regulation must be in place within 12 months of the coming into force of the proposed legislation.

Also in accordance with the precautionary principle, the Governor in Council is required to make an order under the Dangerous Goods Act prohibiting the use of DEHP in products whose use involves the product being brought into contact with the mouth of a child of less than three years of age. Once again, this order must be made within 12 months of the coming into force of the proposed legislation.

Clause 3 of Bill C-307 also establishes certain obligations of the Minister of Health with regard to the use of DEHP in medical devices, including developing requirements for labelling and collaboration with the health care sector in order to develop clinical practice guidelines for the use of medical devices that contain DEHP.

The Minister of Health will also be required to prepare a list of medical devices available in Canada that do not contain DEHP and to consider giving priority to licence applications for medical devices that do not contain DEHP.

Lastly, Bill C-307 will require the government to reassess BBP and DBP under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. These reassessments must be completed within 24 months after the coming into force of this legislative proposal. They will ensure that the government has access to solid scientific evidence to support future decisions about the use of specific phthalates in consumer products.

As I mentioned when I began, the government has made a great deal of effort to improve a bad bill. I believe that Bill C-307 is now more solid and more balanced and can more effectively control these three substances than when it was originally introduced in this House.

I encourage the members on all sides of the House to vote for this bill.

It is especially important to understand that the phthalates in blood bags allow blood to be kept almost twice as long as if the phthalates were not present.

In the end, not only did our government have to adjust to meet a demand, but it also had to take into account medical and scientific constraints regarding the use of this product.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the subject of Bill C-307. First, I want to tell my colleagues that I will be using acronyms for the substances affected by the bill throughout my remarks. You will probably understand why just by reading the title of the bill, which is already quite complicated.

Bill C-307, an act respecting the phthalates BBP, DBP and DEHP, essentially seeks to better control, if not to forbid, the use of phthalates in a wide range of commonly used objects because those substances represent a risk to the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

To begin, let us specify what phthalates are. The phthalates BBP, DBP and DEHP are part of a family of chemical products mainly intended for industrial use. Phthalates are found in a number of common consumer products such as adhesives, detergents, solvents, certain pharmaceutical products, electrical wire and cables and cosmetic products like perfume, deodorants, after-shave lotions, shampoos, and so forth.

The use of phthalates as softening agents is another current application for these products. Most PVC-based rigid, semi-rigid and flexible articles contain phthalates.

The proportion of phthalates can be as high as 50% in some products, for example, plastic bags, food wrap, shower curtains, bath toys, medical devices, and containers for blood storage, to name only a few.

In scientific terms, the toxicity level of phthalates varies depending on the kind of composition. Thus, DEHP phthalates have a higher toxicity potential than other phthalates and some researchers believe that phthalates could be carcinogenic.

According to a report by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, experts have concluded that BBP has no effect or negligible effect on reproduction and development. However, for DEHP and, to a lesser degree, for DBP, the results arouse more concern.

In addition, the use of various medical devices that contain DEHP raises some concern about the development of premature male babies who need prolonged care.

For all these reasons, in our analysis of the bill, the Bloc Québécois has favoured the precautionary principle.

What is the precautionary principle? The precautionary principle was officially recognized and confirmed by the international community in the convention on biological diversity adopted at Rio in 1992, a convention that was ratified by Canada.

According to this principle, when there are reasonable grounds to believe that an activity or a product may cause serious and irreversible harm to health or the environment, mitigation measures must be taken until the effects are documented. These measures may include, in the case of an activity, reducing or terminating this activity or, in the case of a product, banning this product.

So much for phthalates. In terms of the bill before us, the initial text obliged the Minister of the Environment to make regulations prohibiting the use of BBP, DBP and DEHP in certain products.

The bill required a regulation prohibiting the use of BBP in products for use by a child in learning or play, and products that are put in the mouth of an infant when used, including feeding bottle nipples, teethers, soothers, pacifiers and other similar products.

It prohibited the use of DBP in cosmetics, products for use by a child in learning or play, and products that are put in the mouth of an infant when used, including feeding bottle nipples, teethers, soothers, pacifiers and other similar products.

It prohibited DEHP in cosmetics, medical devices other than blood bags, products for use by a child in learning or play, and products that are put in the mouth of an infant when used, including feeding bottle nipples, teethers, soothers, pacifiers and other similar products.

Furthermore, the text amended Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to include BBP, DBP and DEHP as toxic substances.

From the outset of committee study of Bill C-307, the Bloc Québécois expressed concerns about prohibiting phthalates in medical devices.

Although it is important to promote the use of devices that do not contain phthalates, this does not mean that we can forego the use of tools required to care for Quebeckers and Canadians.

This position was taken by many intervenors, including Quebec's Institut national de santé publique.

The Bloc Québécois therefore tabled an amendment to meet that objective. Although the wording of our amendment was rejected, the committee nevertheless integrated the Bloc Québécois' concern regarding medical products. Bill C-307 was amended to include a distinct mechanism for medical products. That mechanism centres on safety and risk identification, rather than a simple ban on products containing phthalates.

Thus, the preferred approach is based on identifying the risks associated with medical devices, and allowing Quebeckers and Canadians to make the final decision on refusing medical instruments that contain phthalates.

Products that are free of phtalates are also promoted—and this is key—by drawing up a list.

This is why we, the Bloc Québécois, are in favour of Bill C-307.

There has not been enough research to date on the effects of phtalates on human health. While awaiting more precise answers regarding the health risks associated with phtalates, the government should limit as much as possible the exposure of vulnerable populations to various chemical compounds, as a precautionary measure.

We also note that some of the bans proposed in the original bill have been amended, since they went too far, given that reliable, effective and safe replacement products were unavailable for certain medical devices.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that Bill C-307 responds to our main concerns.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in response to the parliamentary secretary's closing remarks, I share his concern. I share his profound conviction that we are doing good around the world, but it is also important to remind his colleagues in his own caucus that it is very important that as we build the rule of law and democratic traditions and structures in countries like Afghanistan that we work very feverishly here in this country never to undermine them.

I am speaking today about the merits of Bill C-307, Phthalate Control Act. I would like to begin by congratulating the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his ongoing contribution to the toxins debate in Canada, particularly with regard to phthalates.

The bill before us has been carefully examined in committee and the Liberal Party and its members have played some important role in facilitating the successful outcome of our discussions.

On background, first let us look at the bill. It deals with three major chemical compounds, part of a large group of chemicals known as phthalates. The three phthalates that were examined under this bill are DEHP, BBP and DBP. What are they? For average Canadians who are watching or reading, they are plasticizers. They are substances that enhance flexibility in plastic compounds. They are used in thousands of products, from children's toys to medical devices to cosmetics.

Studies have linked certain phthalates to infertility and other health issues. However, the three phthalates considered in this bill have been evaluated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the past. One of the substances of the three, DEHP, was in fact designated toxic through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

We heard extensive testimony in committee that not all types of exposure were in fact evaluated by the federal government studies when looking at the other two phthalates. The proposed bill calls for a more comprehensive reassessment that shall include exposure through the use of consumer products, including cosmetics. This would help ensure the assessment of the cumulative effects of those phthalates on humans.

Something, which we are just beginning to grapple with in the scientific community and that is, for anyone listening or reading, it is really a question of whether or not we are able to measure a multiplicity of exposures of these compounds themselves or how these compounds interact with other compounds that are in our environment at large here in Canada, the cumulative effects of all of these things combined.

As I mentioned earlier, phthalates are found in thousands of products in our environment: toys and medical devices, cosmetics, but also basics, such as shower curtains or the vinyl that we find in vinyl products or the vinyl dashboard in cars, for example. We are again concerned by the multiple exposure to phthalates which perhaps, in isolation, may not have the impact that we fear on human health, but in combination can be particularly toxic. These repeated exposures could be enough to cause harm.

Both speakers who have preceded me have spoken about the precautionary principle which underlies Bill C-307, and they were right in giving it the attention they did. It calls for the introduction by government of cost effective measures to prevent serious or irreversible damage even if we do not have full scientific certainty.

We know that certain other countries, as my colleague from the NDP has mentioned, including the whole European Union, have tighter restrictions on chemicals such as phthalates than Canada does. However, it is also fair to say that when Bill C-307 arrived at committee last March, all members were in favour of closer scrutiny of these compounds but, to be perfectly frank and honest about it, the bill was in an unworkable, unacceptable and, frankly, very unrealistic form.

As I stressed in committee, we need to achieve what the French would call le juste milieu to deal effectively with phthalates, the right balance between the reflection of health and safety and reasonable demands on industry, while facilitating products which are important and useful for our citizens, and ultimately moving to implement tighter restrictions on these risky compounds.

As it was originally drafted, the bill would have banned the three phthalates completely in commonly used applications but government members, as they are want to do, balked in committee, proposing instead to rewrite the bill in its entirety, or worse, throw it out not seeing beyond its face value. I think it is fair to say that the five Liberal members on the environment committee were instrumental in reconciling the two parties that were embroiled in a spat and then helped broker a compromise so the bill would not die in committee.

I had two central concerns to ensure the bill stayed alive. First, I wanted to ensure that it maintained the science based process that exists in the current legislation. We do not invent legislation here that is not science based. That is not the Canadian way.

Parliament needs to respond from time to time to concerns that are raised, as we did by holding hearings on these very compounds, but scientists and the scientific method are best qualified to provide the final recommendation to the minister about what applications are safe based on current research.

Second, the outright ban would have caused users of phthalate products, including hospitals, to scramble to find substitute products that may or may not work as well as the current ones. This we did hear in testimony objectively from witnesses.

We are not in a situation to recommend to Canadian health care providers that they ought not to be using products that play an indispensable role in health care. Risks need to be balanced. Banning a breathing tube, as the NDP sought in its first draft, because it might potentially have a long term hormonal effect, may in fact have a very immediate impact on a patient's survival.

Again, a science based approach that balances these risks is preferable to a political solution on the one hand emanating from the NDP, which is, in some respects, to frighten Canadians about these products, whereas the Conservative Party would have thrown the bill out at first blush for its own political purposes as well.

The amended version of the bill was supported by all five Liberal MPs and ultimately passed in committee. When the bill gets royal assent, it will require that the chemicals in question are reviewed again with the provision that they will be banned from certain applications if they are found to be toxic.

As my colleagues pointed out earlier, substitutes are already available for many of these products. Bill C-307, as it is drafted now, would encourage research into safer alternatives for a greater number of products, including, of course, medical devices, rather than an unrealistic first off approach found in the first version of the bill, which sought an outright and immediate ban on the use of these products.

Bill C-307 does show that from time to time we can cooperate effectively at committee, usually when the lights are dimmed and the cameras are off, and we can achieve a good outcome as this is.

The official opposition will be supporting the adoption of Bill C-307.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2007 / 6 p.m.
See context

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the committee for its good work. I also want to thank my friend and colleague, the member for Abbotsford, for his good work. He sat on that committee and worked hard, as he does in his constituency. He has done a great job on the environment and I want to thank him.

It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-307, the phthalate control act. I want to thank the member who brought this bill forward for the 20 minutes we heard him speak.

This bill seeks to conduct a reassessment of the risks of the two phthalates, BBP and DBP, within 24 months of the enactment of the bill. Bill C-307 would see the Department of Health publish a document concerning the labelling that is necessary to comply with the requirements of the medical devices regulations in relation to the risks inherent in medical devices that contain phthalates.

The bill would also require that the government take regulatory action under the Hazardous Products Act and the Food and Drugs Act to reduce Canadians' exposure to one phthalate in particular, DEHP, in cases where the risk to human health has been clearly determined.

Furthermore, the bill would require that the Minister of Health undertake a number of actions regarding medical devices which contain DEHP. I am pleased to say that the government supports this bill as amended in committee.

I am also pleased to say that this bill is a great example of what can be accomplished when all the members collaborate. The members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development rolled up their sleeves and worked together to ensure that Bill C-307 is legislation of which all members can be proud.

We put our political differences aside and worked together on the bill for the safety and health of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the environment committee for their hard work and diligence in crafting this bill.

Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to make certain types of plastic more soft and malleable. Bill C-307 deals with three of these phthalates, which I will refer to in their common names, BBP, DBP and DEHP.

Phthalates can be found in many places in our society, from ordinary household objects to manufacturing substances. One of the most important abilities of phthalates is to soften plastics, an important and lifesaving aspect for the medical community.

The first chemical, BBP, is a commonly used plasticizer which can be found in food conveyor belts, artificial leather, traffic cones and many other plastic types of foam. DBP can be found in many cosmetic products, particularly nail polish. DEHP is commonly found in medical devices, intravenous tubing, blood bags and other plastic medical instruments.

Recently, Health Canada found traces of phthalates in children's toys. I share the concerns of all parents who are being vigilant about chemicals to which their children may be exposed. This bill's emphasis on medical devices which contain phthalates addresses one of the government's priorities, the safety of all Canadians, one of the themes in last month's Speech from the Throne.

Health Canada's document will identify what devices and chemicals contained in devices need to be labelled as an inherent health risk. Canadians need to use these lifesaving devices, but they will not be risking their lives to use them.

The bill as amended by the committee tasks the government to reassess both BBP and DBP for any potential risks. These reassessments will be conducted by Health Canada scientists under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, also known as CEPA 99.

Previous Government of Canada assessments of BBP and DBP found these phthalates not to be toxic as defined under CEPA. However, several years have passed since these assessments were conducted and there will be new science reviewing whether or not these substances pose any risk to human health. This government will reassess these two phthalates to determine if, in light of the new information, there are unacceptable risks and detrimental health impacts.

The reassessments will provide the scientific backing required for any action the government may feel is necessary and warranted. This would include the consideration of human exposure to phthalates through the use of consumer products, including cosmetics, and of any communicative effects BBP and DBP may have on humans.

There are those who may argue that conducting these assessments merely delay action on BBP and DBP. I assure the House that this government takes decisive action on chemicals where risks have been determined. We will take action based on science.

The government will conduct risk assessments of BBP and DBP under CEPA to determine the risks to human health and then, if these phthalates are determined to be toxic, the government has a variety of legislative instruments to protect Canadians. If we do not find a scientific approach to risk management, we put in jeopardy the intent of this bill and could undermine the legislative integrity of the government's actions.

It should be noted that we support the precautionary principle which has been added to this bill. The precautionary principle says in effect that the knowledge does not have to be absolute before intervening but it must be enough to justify our actions.

I should also add that the Canada Health measures survey, which is a national survey involving measures, including blood sampling from 5,000 Canadians, is currently being conducted. This national survey will generate data to help us better understand the levels of chemicals in Canadians. The survey includes 11 compounds that could be found in people resulting from phthalate exposure.

Bill C-307 as amended by the environment committee is a much improved version of the bill. It seeks to assess and manage the risks associated with certain phthalates without undermining the science based approach to chemical substance management. That is good news.

This legislation will, if passed, support the government's continuing efforts to protect Canadians from exposure to toxic chemical substances with effective science based risk management solutions.

The government will be supporting Bill C-307 and I encourage all members of the House to support the bill.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge the men and women in uniform who have fought valiantly to protect Canada and to contribute in bringing democracy, safety and freedom to the world. My father served in the Canadian army. He was in the tanks division and was a tank instructor. He was a Canadian from Edmonton and went to England and served Canada and the world over there. My father passed away in July of this year and I miss him greatly.

I have been honoured to meet with many veterans. I am so proud of what we are doing in the world and particularly in Afghanistan. One would ask what would happen if Canada was to abandon Afghanistan, as has been suggested by some in this House. Women and children are now being given the opportunity to attend school. I dare not imagine what would happen if Canada were to leave Afghanistan.

I am supportive of us being in Afghanistan and that we stay there until the job is done. We need to honour those who have given their lives and we need to honour the reputation of Canada.

I remind every one of us to visit a cenotaph in our communities and to honour those Canadians who have served our country so valiantly. We must never forget the ultimate price that so many Canadians have given.