Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of Parliament.
It's a pleasure to be here today for the wrap-up session of the CEPA review.
As part of our previous presentations to the committee, we have two issues that we wish the committee to include as part of their recommendations in the report to Parliament. Our two key issues would require amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
My name is Shannon Coombs and I am the president of the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, a national trade association whose member companies make consumer products such as ant traps, disinfectants, soaps, and detergents. Today I'm here representing FPIC, the Formulated Products Industry Coalition. As stated in our June and September presentations, our unique industry coalition of 15 trade associations was formed in 2001 when the Food and Drugs Act became subject to CEPA.
What do FPIC member companies do? They provide food, personal care products, household cleaners, cosmetics, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to Canadians. We represent over 750 member companies, and we're a $66-billion-a-year industry, employing 375,000 Canadians. I have provided a list of the associations in our coalition to the clerk in both official languages for your consideration.
As background for our issue--and I'm going to try to capture this as quickly as I can--substances and food in the Food and Drugs Act products are captured under CEPA. Why? In 1999, parliamentarians requested that CEPA be the safety net for all environmental assessments, which includes a health assessment of substances.
In section 81 of the act there is a requirement for other acts that have pre-market assessments to meet or exceed CEPA's environmental assessments. Other acts had two years to meet that requirement, and if they did, they were scheduled for exemption under CEPA. If they did not meet it, then CEPA would be the act to govern environmental assessments, and that's under the new substances notification regulations. Other pre-market pieces of legislation, such as the Seeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, and the Pest Control Products Act, meet CEPA's requirements and were scheduled for exemption. But the Food and Drugs Act did not meet the requirements of CEPA, and therefore environmental substances in Food and Drugs Act products are subject to CEPA's regulations.
We've been working under this regime for the past five years, and we believe CEPA is the most appropriate legislative authority for these substances. Although our member companies have been subject to rigorous pre-market assessments and/or notifications under the Food and Drugs Act, being subject to CEPA was new and challenging. Despite the learning curve, FPIC has recognized that CEPA's systems and regulations provide predictable, rigorous submission reviews to member companies and protection to Canadians and their environment.
So why do we need a change to CEPA and why are we here again today? When the Food and Drugs Act substances were captured under CEPA, it left in limbo a list of approximately 9,000 substances that have been used safely and effectively by Canadians for almost 20 years. These substances are in limbo because they're considered new, not existing under the act, and this needs to be remedied. I'll refer to the 9,000 substances as the “in commerce list”. Substances on this list are such things as pharmaceutical actives, cosmetic ingredients such as extracts, surfactants, food colouring, flavourings, lard, starch, kiwi essence, oil of lemon, etc.
We ask the committee to recommend to Parliament the following: acknowledgement of the in commerce list as a list of existing substances under the law by creating a provision in CEPA to recognize them as such. Why? Existing substances is a practical way to go. The substances and the products have provided and continue to provide benefits to Canadians. They have been in commerce for almost 20 years, and clearly they're not new, but existing.
Since these substances have had pre-market assessment and/or notifications, they need some form of environmental assessment. To ensure this happens, we're suggesting that the government categorize and prioritize the in commerce list, and then if needed, provide screening-level risk assessments, just like the completion of the first phase of the categorization and screening of the domestic substances program.
Key sections of the act for which we're looking for amendments are sections 66, 73, 74, and 81. That was what we tabled to the committee in September as the first place to start with respect to amending the legislation. I have submitted those sections to the clerk.
Another key issue for FPIC, and our second issue for the committee's recommendation, is the use and the meaning of “toxic” in the CEPA legislation. We ask the committee to consider removing the word “toxic” so that there is clarity and understanding with respect to how substances are assessed and managed under the act. If the risk assessment of a substance meets the definition, it's placed on schedule 1 and then some type of management for that particular use will be evoked. As stated in our May submission, the challenge has been around the misunderstanding of the term “toxic”. It's our belief that Canadians, regulators, and non-governmental organizations interpret CEPA toxic substances as being intrinsically toxic.
We have provided some examples. CFCs, which destroy the atmospheric ozone, have been used in the past in asthma inhalers.
Ammonia, which I know the committee has had a great deal of discussion about, is also on schedule 1, and carbon dioxide is on schedule 1. It was put there so that greenhouse gases could be managed, but it's not intrinsically toxic.
To support this issue of misinformation and miscommunication, we have provided two examples to the committee of how the term “toxic” has been misinterpreted. One was from an advocacy group that lists on a website all the substances on schedule 1 as being toxic and not to be used. The first on their list, of course, is ammonia, which they say is used in glass cleaner and should be avoided. The second example is from the B.C. Buildings Corporation Cleaning Management, which cites that all substances that are on schedule 1 should not be in any products.
The CEPA toxic issue is not new. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, at a previous environment committee, also recognized the issue and asked for change.
Since this review could make this happen, we've requested that the committee again remove the word “toxic” from the legislation. We're suggesting wording that was proposed in the last budget bill, which was Bill C-43, section 15. The change would leave the definition of toxic exactly the same in section 64, but the title of the section would be changed to “assessment and management of substances”. Since Bill C-30 has been tabled, it is our interpretation that the government doesn't need the word “toxic” to regulate, since they're taking regulatory action on the substances under the new definition of air pollutant. So calling section 64 “the assessment and management of substances” accurately reflects what CEPA does.
As well, in our previous testimony we also challenged the committee and the government to provide effective communications around the results of categorization. On Friday, the government delivered a comprehensive program for substance management in Canada. It builds upon the current rigorous science-based regulatory regime. There is a website that's available--chemicalsubstances.gc.ca. We believe this is a really good opportunity for Canadians to review what the government is doing with respect to substance management.
I think all MPs should be pleased with the result of categorization and the next phase. I don't believe the CSDSL, the program, is any part of that effort. It was members of this committee who included the CSDSL requirement in the last review of CEPA. We're now leading the world in how substances are being reviewed and managed. I think that's something we should all take credit for. It's a very good initiative.
Again, for us the challenge is communication. I know that some of the substances that have been talked about have been noted in the newspaper, in the media reports. For example, PFOS has been cited as one of the things that needs to be phased out. It's been targeted as something that's in consumer products—for example, in windshield wiper fluid. PFOS is not in windshield wiper fluid. The government has on their website a very good explanation of what PFOS is in, how they have reduced the use of that, and the amount of PFOS that's actually in Canada. This can be found at chemicalsubstances.gc.ca.
In summary, I'd just like to say that it's been a pleasure working with all of you over the past six months. We believe this process has been a very open and transparent review of a very important piece of legislation. We would ask that you take on our challenges and provide the recommendations to Parliament to amend the legislation. Our collective priority, of course, is to ensure the protection of Canadians and their environment.