My name is Gordon Lloyd. I'm vice-president of technical affairs with the Canadian Chemical Producers Association.
I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to participate in this round table and to talk about the term “toxic” in CEPA. Also, I have a few comments about the in-commerce list. I thought that was on the agenda today, and I won't go into much detail. I also have a few comments on the categorization of the domestic substances list.
When I presented to you last May, I emphasized how CCPA--the chemical industry--wanted a CEPA that would support our members' continuous improvement in environment and health performance, which is driven by our responsible care initiative. As I discussed last May, responsible care is a set of initiatives started by CCPA in the 1980s to meet public concerns about chemicals and their impact. It has spread internationally.
The issues the committee is considering today are important to our objective of having a workable and effective piece of legislation that will help to reinforce what our members need to do to improve under the responsible care initiative.
The issue I want to focus most on is the categorization of the domestic substances list, where I think Canada has a world-leading position and has made a remarkable achievement. A lot more needs to be done, and I think that's an issue that will be very important to discuss with the committee, but I'd first like to very briefly touch on the other two issues.
First of all, on the toxic issue, in the presentations to the committee last May by CCPA and by others, there were many concerns raised about the undue stigma that's associated with the term “toxic” as it's used in CEPA. I think there seemed to be general support among committee members for looking at that issue and trying to find a solution. We're very pleased that this is one of the things that you're reviewing in your round tables.
Our recommendation is fairly straightforward. We think you could remove the term “toxic” from the act, particularly in the operational sections in part 5, and replace it with something like “substances that meet the criteria of section 64”.
The previous government, in their budget bill proposal, would have actually gone part way to doing that. They would have left the term “toxic” in section 65, which is about virtual elimination, but it would have then been by itself and without a definition. I think that could have presented some fundamental problems with the act, changing virtual elimination from a risk-based approach to a hazard-based approach. I'd be happy to get into that in more detail if people want to hear about virtual elimination. I understand you may have a separate round table on that issue, and that might be a better place to talk about it.
The bottom line is that I think replacing the term “toxic” throughout CEPA with a term such as “substances that meet the criteria of section 64” would resolve the stigma problem; it would maintain the integrity of the act for a risk-based approach for virtual elimination; and I think--and it's an important point, which Mr. Cullen emphasized last time, and we agree with it--you'd also maintain the validity of constitutional powers.
As we understand it, when they raised it previously, the Department of Justice lawyers did look at what possibilities would work. Their proposal to use language about meeting the criteria of section 64 I believe was made with the understanding that it wouldn't undermine the constitutional validity of the act. And as I said before, that's very important to us.
Our second point--and I'll very briefly touch on this--concerns the so-called “in-commerce list”. This is really about what substances are existing in the legislation and are treated as such, and what are new substances.
CCPA recommends that the act be amended to allow the in-commerce list and similar substances to be treated as existing substances under CEPA, possibly by being added to the domestic substances list, or possibly through another mechanism that could be developed to recognize them as existing substances.
The domestic substances list, or the DSL, is a list that was set up to identify substances that are in commercial use in Canada when the requirements were put in CEPA to assess new substances and to distinguish the new substances from the existing ones. The in-commerce list is a colloquial name that has been given to a group of substances that were covered by the Food and Drugs Act. They are in commerce and they should be treated as existing substances, but there are technical difficulties in CEPA such that we are unable to do that right now. But they're clearly not new substances.
We think CEPA should be amended to provide the minister with more flexibility in treating substances that aren't new substances as existing substances. And this could apply to the in-commerce list and to other areas. If this were done, the approach that's been taken to use the categorization tools applied to the DSL could also be applied to these other substances as well. That would identify any substances in commerce that may need additional attention and management, as the completion of categorization so far has done with the substances that are now on the DSL.
As my final point, I'd like to turn to what I see as the remarkable completion of the categorization initiative. The question the committee is faced with--the government-industry angles--is what do we do with the categorization results. I think that's what you're really going to be looking at. Categorization was completed last week. The government still needs to release further details, so my understanding of it may not be absolutely accurate and up to date, but there were briefings with industry and with environmental groups over the course of the development of this process, sometimes jointly, sometimes singly, which I think worked best. I think we've learned a fair amount about the process and how we expect it to work. And as we see it, the 23,000 substances in commerce in Canada on the DSL--and these numbers I'm using are all approximate--have now been looked at and they've been sorted; they've effectively been triaged.
Categorization concludes that about 19,000 substances are not likely to have harmful effects on people or the environment, based on our current knowledge. And like the new substance notification provisions that seem to satisfy Canadians as to the safety of new chemicals, Canadians should see that about 19,000 substances are what I would refer to in colloquial terms as safe and do not require further work or assessment at this time. We're always afraid about using “safe” in these discussions, because nothing is ever absolutely safe, but that's a good way of looking at these substances as a group.
That would leave about 4,000 substances to be looked at to see, after they're assessed, if they should be put into the safe bin, or whether they should be determined to be toxic, or whatever label ends up being applied in CEPA for substances that are added to schedule 1, and where they would require regulation.
We understand, based on information we've heard over the summer, that of the 4,000 substances that still need to be worked on, probably about 1,000 of them will not require further work. There were conclusions this year that they're not likely to cause problems for people or the environment, and those could be set aside and put in what I'm referring to as the safe group of chemicals. That would leave about 3,000 substances to be assessed.
We understand this is going to be done through a rolling set of priorities. That makes sense. Everything can't be done at once. This is a very challenging task. A timetable was set globally through agreement by world leaders in Johannesburg in 2000 and it was picked up in a Dubai declaration about safe management of chemicals globally. It set a benchmark of 2020, to produce chemicals that minimize significant adverse effects to human health and the environment. That's the type of timeframe that would be challenging, would be doable, and would fit into the global timetable to work on this issue.
This is truly a global issue. Canada has emphasized that international cooperation has to be a cornerstone in tackling it, and we certainly agree with that. We see that with the categorization Canada has now completed and the follow-up assessment Canada will be doing, Canada will be leading globally in this initiative and will have an awful lot to offer to the U.S., to Europe, and to other OECD countries. But we also can take from those countries. The U.S. and the OECD, particularly assisted by the International Council of Chemical Associations, with CCPA as a member, have done a lot of work on the group of substances produced in high volume, and a lot of data has been collected that Canada can tap into as we work through the categorization results.
If Europe ever gets its REACH legislation passed and operational, and if it works despite its seemingly overwhelming complexity and cumbersomeness, we hope Canada will be able to rely on some cooperation and results from Europe as well, but that's still somewhat an unknown. We have a project that's been ongoing and is working, and they have had an ongoing debate that has yet to produce any results.
Also, I mentioned the global chemical industry's contribution to what the world is doing in high-production-volume chemicals. We've tried to move beyond that and develop a global product strategy under responsible care that was launched at this Dubai conference where the 2020 objective that I referred to earlier was formalized. That was about five or six months ago, and we're still fleshing out the details. This should be very useful in helping Canadian industry and Canadian government move forward in gathering the information that's required for post-categorization assessment.
I have something I was able to get hold of only today that we've produced. I'll give it to the clerk so it can be provided to the committee. It describes this initiative in a bit more detail, if there's interest in it.
What to do with the categorization results? I guess in CCPA's view, the answer is to stay the course with the process that CEPA '99 established and that Environment and Health Canada follow. We have a world-leading ambitious program that has proved to be workable so far. It has met the September 14 milestone of completing the categorization process, but that takes it only part way through what CEPA required, and there's still the assessment stage to go through. That next assessment stage will be a lot more challenging, but we can build on the partnerships, the momentum, the international cooperation, the clear legislative authority that we have, and the scientific tools that are being developed as part of categorization and that have underpinned our success to date to move forward.
So I think the key message to the committee is that the legislation needs to let that happen without changing course in mid-stream. This is something that's working and hopefully is allowed to continue to work. Don't fix what isn't broken.
Thank you very much. I hope those comments are useful for the round table.