We've prepared notes that we'll need to revise slightly, and only slightly, in light of Friday's announcements.
I'm going to talk about consumer products, and if there's time we'll get into the in-commerce list.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 gives the power to regulate toxic substances in consumer products and to make regulations controlling the import, manufacture, use, quantity, and concentration of substances in products, as well as for packaging and labelling. However, it's not been used. A number of things were suggested in Friday's announcement, and I'll talk about them in a minute.
The legislative overlap and interdepartmental jurisdiction issue to raise today concerns the issues between CEPA and the Hazardous Products Act. I've had many years of experience trying to advocate for better regulation of lead in consumer products under the Hazardous Products Act, and I have been extremely critical of it. It's product-by-product focused; it's entirely reactive; it comes into play only after very serious problems have been identified, and after damage, even death, has already occurred; and it's—painfully—slow. I've brought some examples to illustrate this, where the Hazardous Products Act was used to regulate lead in jewellery, and used, in my opinion, quite ineffectively.
Lead was banned from gasoline in 1990, and ever since there has been a steady stream of lead in consumer products, most particularly in jewellery. I have a whole bunch of examples here. The suggested level of lead that these products should not exceed was 90 parts per million. This key chain fob from the Lindsay Pontiac dealership in the town where I live is 535,000 parts per million. This necklace is 965,000 parts per million; that's 95% pure lead. I have a whole lot of examples. This lapel pin that was given out at a conference I went to on child care and early learning is 3,000 parts per million. I was given another one by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which was about 15% parts per million; that's 15,000 parts per million.
I have a whole bunch more of this stuff—it's as plentiful as pennies—but the only one of these that would be covered by the regulation that finally got put in place under the Hazardous Products Act after six years of talking is this one, because it's marketed to children. The regulation under the Hazardous Products Act is not effective in dealing with a problem that is very serious: a child handling or putting in their mouth this key chain fob that's 535,000 parts per million would be getting a very dangerous exposure to lead. I'm getting lead on my hands right now.
I go on a bit of a tangent on lead in jewellery, so I'll stop there.
Another and more recent example of a failure to regulate products is the PFOS chemicals. The announcement in the summer to address these chemicals exempts imported consumer products from regulatory action under CEPA. We are told that this may be addressed in the future; that remains to be seen.
The decision to regulate flame retardants—again, a decision made last summer—saying that we would ban under CEPA, or classify as toxic, the octa and penta mixtures of flame retardants addresses those that have already been voluntarily withdrawn. The ones we are not addressing, the deca-PBDEs, are increasingly in use and remain a serious problem, as their toxicity information is just as compelling, or almost as compelling, as for those others.
I brought with me a piece of foam. Everyone of us is sitting on PBDEs right now. There is a toxic legacy here of enormous proportions. We are still dealing with the problem of lead in paint, a consumer product from the 20th century, which remains an issue for 25% of the homes in Canada. It's something we'll need to be vigilant about and aware of for many decades into the future, in terms of toxic exposure to lead. That's nothing compared to foam and other places where PBDEs are in consumer products now in our homes, in our offices, in our child care facilities, and for which low-income people are going to bear the brunt as these products break down over time and become increasingly part of house dust. We need to ban these kinds of substances before this enormous legacy gets created for future generations.
Many of these examples we can discuss more. It's a situation where products are not adequately regulated, because trade trumps health. That is what happened with this lead in jewellery. Regulatory impact analysis under the Hazardous Products Act said the reason there was a choice to not regulate beyond the few that are marketed to children was that it would create an undue economic hardship for the costume jewellery industry. That was the rationale for not regulating a wide range of toxic lead products, and I find that unacceptable.
Another issue of overlap or confusion between CEPA and the Hazardous Products Act concerns the issue of hazard labelling. Again, I'll use another product to illustrate the points I'd like to make about this. This is a product called Goof Off, a very cute little title. It has several hazard symbols on it. It contains several substances, one of which is toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 2-Methoxyethanol, or diethylene glycol monomethyl ether.
In Friday's announcements about the fact that more action is going to be taken on toxic substances in Canada, there is a lot of useful information on that new website, one of which is an area where there's a section of fact sheets about certain chemicals that are of interest to Canadians, and one of them is this substance.
This fact sheet says that this chemical is used mostly as a solvent and it was found at one time in nail polish remover, in all-purpose cleaners. Current information indicates 2-Methoxyethanol is now being used only in one consumer product, a cleaning solvent for white boards.
I checked because I thought, great, so it's not being used anymore, because my husband bought this at Canadian Tire about two years ago. I went to check at Heron Road and Bank Street, at the Canadian Tire today, and found this product still on the shelf. So this fact sheet on the website from Friday's announcement is incorrect. It's just an example of widely available products with extremely toxic substances in them.
The warning labels, the hazard symbols, as far as they go under the Hazardous Products Act work just fine, but it's only to prevent you from acute poisoning, blowing up or burning yourself badly, etc. That is not addressing the same sorts of toxicity concerns that are addressed under CEPA, the chronic toxicity issues.
If you look at the example of this chemical again, it's classified as CEPA-toxic. I'll give the government credit for what was announced on Friday, that there is apparently a plan to put this under the prohibition of certain toxic substances. They're going to exempt for certain occupational exposures...so maybe that will happen. I'm waiting to see it, because that is one of the few examples where there will be some kind of control on something that's in a consumer product. This chemical is a suspected developmental toxicant, a suspected endocrine toxicant, a gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, a suspected neurotoxicant--those chronic health effects that we address or we are supposed to start increasingly addressing under CEPA, which are not addressed under the Hazardous Products Act.
The solution that we're suggesting is the notion of a materials use approach. It would deal with the three things we're suggesting--materials use, better labelling, and recall powers.
So on the issue of materials use, what we're suggesting is something like lead, and this example. Lead is a very useful substance. There's no substitute for it, for example, in car batteries, X-ray shielding, or certain cable sheathing applications. It's an enormously useful substance and we wouldn't want to ban it. Plus it's naturally occurring. We wouldn't want to eliminate it completely.
But it's highly toxic. It should not be in the key chain fob sent to me by the War Amps trying to raise money. It's 75% pure lead, and my children could play with it and be poisoned by it. That's not regulated. So the notion of a materials use approach is that if it's declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act it should not be allowed to be widely used, except under certain circumstances. So allow for the exceptions.
In the Goof Off example for this chemical, which is also toxic and is deemed to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, it would not be allowed to be used in something like this. Maybe there are a few occupational exemptions, and that's what's suggested in the fact sheet on the website. That would be it. It's much more efficient to say there are a few exceptions for the use of something and otherwise you can't use it, than to have to do what the Hazardous Products Act does, which is product-by-product individual analysis to determine whether it can be used or not. We can talk about that in more detail if you like.
There is the suggestion to get a better labelling arrangement in this country. As I mentioned, the Hazardous Products Act labels are good, as far as they go. In addition to the warning symbols, there's information on how you should avoid exposure through the use of protective gloves, glasses, or whatever.
But what is in place in California under Proposition 65 is for substances of chronic toxicity...the other concerns we've been raising. I have the example of patio lanterns. This is a product bought in the United States. Here's the Proposition 65 warning: “Handling the coated electrical wires of this product exposes you to lead, a chemical known to the state of CA to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. Wash hands after use.”
I don't really like the fact that lead is in here, but I like to be warned and I think other people like to be warned as well about something like that.
Do any of you realize that when you handle your Christmas lights to put them on your tree this year you're going to have lead on your hands, and you should wash your hands after you do that, especially if your children are handling those lights?
So that's one of the suggestions we've made about existing provisions in other statutes in other jurisdictions that we think would be a useful and progressive amendment to make in CEPA.
Finally there is the notion of recall powers, the ability to recall products when a hazard is identified. We don't have that power under the Hazardous Products Act. We need it, and we have suggested a way of putting it in place in CEPA as well.
I know I've gone way over time, and I apologize to Kapil. In light of the announcements on Friday we've made a bit of progress, but we're still at the problem identification stage. Your job in reviewing this law is to really get at the notion that we need to be able to regulate products and not let trade trump health or environmental protection.