I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to participate in this round table about the international aspects of the CEPA review.
When I presented to you last May and a couple weeks ago, both times I described CCPA and Responsible Care, so I won't do that again. Just briefly, I'll note that Responsible Care was a set of initiatives that we started in Canada in the 1980s to meet public concerns about chemicals, their impact, and their safety. I think it's important to note in this international context that it has spread from Canada to 52 other countries now. It is also a recognized part of international chemical strategy, and that was most recently recognized in the Dubai strategic approach to international chemicals management. In my written remarks I have set out the quotes on this from the Dubai declaration.
There are two things I'd like to talk to you about today. First is how Canada's chemical management policy fits in internationally, and in that I'll add a couple of comments that aren't in my remarks. I largely agree with most of the points Richard made, and I think there's really good room for dialogue on those. I'll also briefly mention amending CEPA so we can recognize assessments of other jurisdictions. In case I don't get around to that, Jack Soule is going to deal with that in more detail. But my basic point is that we think this is an important point and we fully support what he is going to say.
Turning to the main point about CEPA and the international context, Canada basically manages chemicals like other OECD countries. Most have notification requirements for new chemicals so that these are assessed by governments before they're commercialized. There are some differences in the rules in different countries, but by and large they aim at the same approach and seem to have satisfied the public about chemical safety for new chemicals.
Like Canada, other OECD countries have inventories of grandfathered chemicals that were in commercial use before the new-substance notification requirements came on stream. These are sometimes called “existing chemicals” to distinguish them from the new chemicals that are under the new-substance notification requirements. In Canada these are on our inventory called the domestic substances list, the DSL.
In the 1990s a common theme emerged among OECD countries. There was a sense of general public confidence in the safety of new chemicals, maybe some improvements on the margins, particularly in recognizing assessments of new chemicals done by other jurisdictions. But the big issue was public concern about the grandfathered chemicals--whether they'd been assessed and whether there is enough data on them, the existing chemicals. Different approaches took place in different jurisdictions and countries to look at the issue.
First there was a concerted effort within the OECD to assess high production volume, and these became known as HPV chemicals. This approach was probably adopted most strenuously in the U.S., and it was stimulated in part by the Environmental Defense Fund in an environmental organization report that came out, and also by agreement by the U.S. Chemical Manufacturers Association that more needed to be done in this area after they'd looked at it. This resulted in a U.S. HPV challenge program. A similar program was also adopted, although somewhat less ambitiously, by the International Council of Chemical Associations, which the CCPA is a part of.
This work on HPV chemicals supplemented and very much accelerated the work in the OECD. I think the U.S. HPV initiative has worked very well. It has spread internationally; it's achieved significant results. In the OECD about 1,000 substances have been assessed. The U.S. program has collected data on about 2,200 HPV substances and has added another 500 to the list; they still need to do assessments on these. But there is a wealth of information there that will flow into what we need and will be accessible for DSL categorization and screening.
In Canada we address this existing chemicals issue by the DSL categorization and screening initiative. When I appeared before you a couple of weeks ago I described in detail my understanding of the program. The government has yet to announce what the program will actually constitute. Maybe that will be announced today in the clean air package, maybe not--we'll find out later. I won't repeat what I said then, but in the written notes that I've presented to the committee, I have summarized the conclusions I had about what I expect the program to achieve.
The main point, I think, is that in the DSL Canada has taken a very practical approach of using criteria such as persistence by accumulation, inherent toxicity, and potential for exposure to determine which substances require assessment and which do not.
There has been tremendous cooperation and working together by industry, by environmental groups, and by governments in making the DSL categorization process work to date. In the next stage, the assessment stage, which will be even more challenging, we expect and hope that this cooperative approach will work.
The Canadian approach is not without its challenges and concerns. A key one for CCPA is that the government maintains adequate rigour in the risk assessment process for the assessments it will have to do. We believe this can be done the necessary assessments that are required are completed. That will require international cooperation. And a lot of what Richard said in that context I fully support. It's reassuring, I think, that a sound science basis that we feel needs to continue is firmly established in CEPA and in long-standing government policy. And that should stand in the way of taking shortcuts, and it should help to maintain the risk-based approach that we need for chemicals management that is the foundation of this in Canada and internationally.
Having talked about the OECD, the U.S., and Canada, I'll also talk about REACH. This is another major approach to dealing with the grandfathered or existing chemicals issue that's been taken by the European Union--and it's lasted over seven years--in trying to develop its legislation.
REACH stands for registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals--a very catchy acronym. Canada has taken a practical approach that we believe will lead to about 2,000 assessments once they've set aside things they have current information on and also once they've set aside things that are no longer in use. I think the 4,000 Richard talked about will probably be cut in half. Now, contrast that with REACH. I think REACH will look at applying registration requirements to over 30,000 substances.
There are some key points that lead to questioning the workability, practicality, and usefulness of REACH. From what I've heard from European colleagues, I think it's reach may exceed its grasp, and it may, by trying to do too much, achieve very little.
REACH is not yet law. We've heard from the European Union for the last number of years that next year it will be law. I believe that statement is true this year, but we're going to have to wait and see; we've heard that before. Eventually it will be law, but it's taking a long time in coming, while in Canada we've actually moved forward and accomplished something.
One of REACH’s main complexities is that multiple companies registering the same substance must enter into a consortium to share the costs. European colleagues tell me that about 25,000 consortia may have to be established within 12 months of REACH coming into force. One company told me--and this is a very major company--that they expect to have to be involved in 1,000 consortia. The workability of this may very well bog down REACH.
These consortia are there to ensure that the costs of getting the information, including testing for registration, will be borne fairly by the companies involved in a substance. The results may actually be to constrain the flow of information that could otherwise be used for Canadian assessments.
I agree with Richard that it would be very useful if we could get information from REACH that would help us in DSL. The way REACH is structured may constrain that.
One of the points he made is that we should have a basis for negotiating with Europe for the government to obtain confidential information. Well, we actually do have that in our legislation now. It's section 316. Industry and the Canadian government were able to convince the European Union to adopt a similar clause. It's referred to as the “Canada clause” in REACH. So that ability to share information between Canada and Europe is already there.
We hope it will happen. The way they treat information flows in these consortia may stand in the way of that.
If you contrast that with the benefits of the U.S. and OECD HPV programs, they have definitely facilitated sharing information internationally, and that's benefited the DSL program to date and will benefit it further in the future. REACH, unfortunately, may have exactly the opposite effect.
There are a lot of other complexities, uncertainties, and unresolved issues with REACH, and I won't go into those. You really have to have an expert who's completely involved in keeping up with these as they change. We've advised our companies that are exporting into Europe to make sure they consult experts from Europe who are fully engaged in this, because it's incredibly complicated.
In concluding this part of my comment, I'll say that Canada does have similar legislation to other OECD countries. It's very similar, especially for new substances. For grandfathered substances, Canada, like other countries, is trying to improve public confidence in chemical safety. We, unlike Europe, seem to be taking a practical approach that has and should achieve more positive, workable results. We definitely will benefit from what the U.S. and the OECD are doing for HPV chemicals; however, we are taking a more comprehensive approach than the Americans, because we're addressing more than HPV chemicals, and that's definitely a step forward.
Let me address my second point briefly. I would like, as I said, to recommend that CEPA be amended so that Canada can recognize assessments of other jurisdictions. Under section 75 of CEPA, we already can recognize assessments when other jurisdictions assess a substance and substantially restrict it. CEPA should also provide an ability to recognize assessments when other countries approve a substance. We've led the way with DSL categorization and screening, and I think other countries need to follow. Australia has actually led the way—and Jack will talk about this in a bit more detail—on recognizing assessments of new chemicals, and I think we should follow suit there.
Another point I can talk about, if you'd like, is one raised the last time I was here, the toxicity issue and the question of whether changing it in Canada would cause conflict with international treaties. You noted, Mr. Chair, that this might be talked about more today. I've looked at it in more detail, and if there's interest in the committee I can go into it further.
But that's it for my comments. Thank you very much.