If he leaves, it's not because you've offended him.
Let me start by stating very simply that the government completely supports the need to address PFOS. Any debate that you see this morning is not about PFOS, and it's not about the need to get rid of PFOS. What we're talking about this morning are some fairly technical issues.
Dr. Khatter suggested that PFOS should be added to the virtual elimination list, but he also suggested that one of the problems we're encountering with this very bill highlights the problems that we have with the virtual elimination list.
I hope I'm not misinterpreting, but I understood him to say that we should be eliminating the “level of quantification requirement” in CEPA that is associated with the virtual elimination list provisions at the moment, and that we should be allowing prohibition, or a prohibition regulation, as a means for implementing virtual elimination.
I agree 100% with that position. Unfortunately, that's the CEPA that we'd like to see, but not the CEPA that we have today. The CEPA that we have today says that if we add something to the virtual elimination list, we have to develop a level of quantification and we have to have a ministerial release limit regulation, notwithstanding the fact that we may already have prohibited the substance through a governor-in-council regulation.
That's what Bill C-298 would have us do. Despite the fact that the government has introduced a regulation to prohibit the substance, this bill would require us to develop a level of quantification and another regulation to limit its releases from products. It's our position that those two extra steps—a level of quantification and a release limit regulation—will simply be make-work projects and will not add any value to the environment or to human health.
That was not the case when this bill was introduced, to Ms. Minna's credit. When this bill was introduced in May of last year, the government had not added this substance to the list of toxic substances and we had not introduced a regulation. Since then, however, the government did add PFOS and its salts and its precursors to the list of toxic substances. The government did this in December 2006.
In the same month, the government introduced a proposed regulation and published that regulation in part I of the Canada Gazette. That regulation would prohibit the import, manufacture, use, and sale of PFOS, its salts, and its precursors, as well as any products containing those substances.
As Dr. Khatter explained, that regulation would allow four critical use exemptions. It's our understanding that these four exemptions are the same exemptions that the United States EPA and the European Union have allowed. Those are the two jurisdictions that have actually implemented regulations to address these substances.
The four exemptions are as follows. The first is a five-year exemption for fume suppressants for the metal-plating sector. These are needed until alternatives are in use throughout this sector. We need to suppress fumes because those fumes contain other dangerous substances, such as hexavalent chromium. Here we have a classic trade-off of one bad substance for another. We recognize the need to eliminate PFOS, as do the other jurisdictions. What we're doing is allowing a very clear timeframe within which to implement, to purchase and install, the technology and processes needed to use alternative fume suppressants.
The second is a five-year exemption on the use of existing stocks of firefighting foam. You can't buy any new firefighting foam. As for the stuff that you got from the fire stations or the large institutions, you can continue to use that material for up to five years, after which, even if you still have it, you have to get rid of it. You certainly can't buy any new firefighting foams that contain PFOS.
The third exemption is for photographic material and semiconductor devices for which critical use exemptions have been granted in jurisdictions where these devices are manufactured.
The final exemption is for the sale and use of manufactured items that were manufactured or imported into Canada before the regulations came into force. We're not asking people to take products off the shelf. If they're on the shelf, if they've been manufactured or imported, we're just phasing them out, essentially. You can't bring in any new products. As I explained, this regulation was published in Canada Gazette, part I, in December of 2006. We're now working under a timeline to bring those regulations into force this calendar year.
So why is that enough? Why don't we also need the steps that Ms. Minna outlines in Bill C-298?
First, the government regulation would prohibit not just PFOS but all chemicals that degrade into PFOS. The current bill is limited to PFOS, and the government's regulation goes beyond it. Obviously that would be a simple amendment to the bill.
Second, the government regulation goes to the source of the problem. It would prohibit sources of PFOS in Canada. The key route for the release of PFOS into the environment is through the breakdown of consumer products over time. So instead of regulating releases of PFOS from those products, the government bill would go to the source of the problem and prohibit its use in those products.
Third, it would be easier to enforce the government regulation. The government regulation, as I've explained, focuses on the use of PFOS, and would prohibit the use of PFOS. That's something we can monitor and enforce. A release-limit regulation, on the other hand, would require us to focus on products, and look at whether those products are releasing the substance. That means measuring PFOS coming off of manufactured articles, as opposed to just saying you can't use it any more. It would be much more cumbersome to enforce.
Finally, it's our position that at least two of the three actions the bill requires won't add value to health and the environment.
The bill would require the Minister of the Environment to develop a release-limit regulation, as I've explained, and it's our view that this would be redundant. We're prohibiting the use. You don't need to also regulate releases. If you can't use it, there won't be any releases.
The bill would also require a level of quantification, or LOQ. The only reason you need a level of quantification is to develop a release regulation. The premise of the virtual elimination regime is that you develop a level of quantification, which is the lowest level we can measure using routine but sensitive analytical methods. Then you put that in the regulation, and say that you can't have any more than that being released.
Well, if we're not developing a release regulation, we don't need the LOQ. It costs a lot of money to develop an LOQ, so let's force the government to spend that money only if we think it will add value.
The third thing the bill would do would be to add that substance to the virtual elimination list. Now, there may be some symbolic value in adding the substance to the virtual elimination list. As Dr. Khatter has stated, there are international efforts under way to add PFOS to the Stockholm Convention, which would have influence in other countries, including developing countries that continue to use PFOS. If putting the substance on a list in Canada would further those international efforts, and if the committee is of that view, then certainly there may be some merit there. But it's our position that in terms of actually requiring the government to take those extra steps of developing a second regulation and a level of quantification, it would not go any further than our current regulation would go, which is to completely prohibit the substance.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.