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.
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.