Mr. Speaker, back in February the Minister of the Environment stated in the House her intention to review the present situation and to propose within four to six months timetables and schedules for the phasing out of toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes, particularly of organochlorines.
Chlorine is at the centre of a controversy because of its impacts on the environment and on human health. On one hand chlorine has been very useful but it is also has negative effects.
Today there are about 15,000 chlorinated compounds in use by industry. In addition, many byproducts are produced when chlorine is used in processes such as pulp and paper and vinyl manufacturing. These byproducts include such toxic persistent substances as dioxins, furans and PCBs.
Organochlorines are known to be persistent in the environment and to build up in the food chain.
A number of health problems are associated with organochlorines and mounting evidence indicates that some organochlorines can cause not only cancer, but also reproductive dysfunctions, endochrine disruptions, developmental impairments, and immunological effects.
The International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes has recently recommended first, the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances from the Great Lakes, including the use of chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds as chemical feedstocks in industry. Second, the elimination of other chlorine uses or at least their reduction and, third, a shift from government or the public having to prove the danger of a product to the chemical industry so that it would be the chemical industry that would have to prove the product or a substance is not harmful.
In addition, the International Joint Commission is urging industry to rethink its practices in order to eliminate the production of persistent toxic substances, a much better preventive approach than the reacting and curing approach we have at the present time.
Many scientists are saying that organo-chlorines are a problem from a public health point of view. While some organo-chlorines might be generally safe, they should earn their designation as safe through good, solid science and through a shift in the onus of proof.
For all these reasons, I urge the Minister of the Environment to announce a plan for the gradual elimination of industrial chlorine use as recommended by the International Joint Commission. Also, I urge the minister to set up a strategy and a timetable for examining the possibility of reducing or eliminating other uses of chlorine and other persistent toxic substances.
In conclusion, it seems to me that in 1994 the Minister of the Environment has the opportunity to act and to plan a transition as called for by the International Joint Commission which recommends the adoption of a virtual elimination strategy within two years. This action requires political will and commitment, of course. The Minister of the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister has the power to prove that this Liberal government is committed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement which as we all know commits the Government of Canada and that of the United States of America to a toxic free water body for the benefit of Canadians and Americans.