Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate on this bill.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I would also like to thank the member for Niagara Falls for explaining the government's activities in this regard and how he sees the matter unfolding.
Ordinarily I might not be predisposed to support a private member's bill of this nature because there is a governmental process and regulatory process to deal with these issues. The member from Niagara illustrated that process quite well. The member will understand, as I am sure the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley understands, that there are frustrations with the process. Quite often the speed at which it goes forward is not satisfactory to Canadians. It is sometimes good that a member brings forward a bill like this one. For that reason, I will be supporting this bill.
It is important that the bill go forward to committee for refinement. At that time the government will have a chance to make a presentation in the committee and if it has had a chance to advance the markers far enough, then the member may be convinced to withdraw his bill if the markers are brought forward in a way that meets these commitments.
It seems to me that when we are talking about the health of infants and when there is enough evidence to show that there is a substantial risk to infants, then we have to advance quickly. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act foresees this, but it does not prevent our doing it in the manner that has been brought forward, that it be done a little bit in advance.
As was mentioned, BBP would be banned from children's toys and anything meant for use in children's mouths. DBP would be banned from children's toys and again anything meant for use in children's mouths, and from cosmetics. DEHP would be banned from children's toys, anything meant for use in children's mouths, cosmetics and medical devices other than blood bags.
In all cases I believe there are alternate products that can be used, which should be explored as is being done in other jurisdictions. It is a bit disappointing that Canada would be behind the others. It puts us at additional risk. As these products are being replaced in the market, if we do not have the legislative or regulatory framework to advance the markers in Canada, we will probably be the last ones receiving this excess production of these chemicals. They will continue to be used in Canada while alternatives are used in other markets.
The coming into force of the ban is not quite what I would have liked. I would have liked it to be better than a year after the bill goes through the House. Again, there is a regulatory framework within Canada that has to be dealt with. Hopefully at committee some improvements can be made.
Generally speaking, when commercial enterprises in this country realize what Canada is doing, what the Government of Canada wants to advance and what Parliament is suggesting, quite often we can get some cooperation. I certainly would hope that we see cooperation from the market on this point and that products which are intended for use by children and infants and which contain these chemicals would be pulled back.
There is a lot more that the government could do to assist. How can parents be expected to know about all this? I have seen initiatives that have been cut by the government that could have helped.
We had the child care program. I visited a day care in the town of Yarmouth that was looking forward to the child care program which had been signed with the province of Nova Scotia. It would have been able to expand on its parent education programs. That day care could advance these types of things with parents and work with the communities. Unfortunately that was not passed. Five billion dollars were removed and another $6 billion for the anticipated years. Hopefully that will be brought back.
What are phthalates? They are used in many plastics to help make them softer and more pliable. Many are used in cosmetics to add lustre and texture. They are also used in fragrances to preserve the scent. In some cosmetics the concentration of phthalates is as much as 20% of the weight. Every year 4.5 million tonnes of phthalates are used worldwide.
Phthalates have no chemical bond to the products to which they are added, so they often leak out, or off-gas, as has been said. The new car smell, the smell of a new shower curtain or the scent of new plastic is undoubtedly largely comprised of phthalates.
If we look at plastics being more pliable, different scents and lustre in cosmetics, we will see, I think, that civilization does not depend on the continued use of these chemicals. Somehow civilization will find a way to get through without them. If there is any sense of risk, I think they should be removed from the market.
More importantly, phthalates are bioaccumulative and not water soluble. They persist in the fatty tissues of animals and humans, so the more contact infants, individuals or animals have with these products, the more this builds up in their systems. We might remember mercury as being another product that did that. We easily understand the dangers of mercury. This is similar.
Links have been made between BBP, DPB and DEHP and certain reproductive and developmental disorders such as abnormal reproductive development in infant boys and links to other health defects such as child allergies, premature births, damaged sperm, genital defects and testicular cancer. In animal tests, exposure caused reduced fertility, testicular atrophy, spontaneous abortions, birth defects and damage to kidneys and liver.
If we think of more pliable plastics, lustre in cosmetics and having a little more scent around and compare that to the lifelong risks, beginning at birth and early childhood and continuing on, I think it is quite easy to decide what we should be doing.
There are alternatives, as I mentioned. The corporation BASF has already excluded DEHP from production in Europe and has replaced it with safer alternatives. Why not Canada?
Companies like Reilly Industries and Velsicol produce alternative plasticizers that are safer and better performing. The alternatives work at lower temperatures and lower concentrations.
Some cosmetics companies have already started to phase out use in response to the phthalate ban in Europe. Again, why not Canada?
Argentina, Fiji, Finland, Japan and Mexico have banned this group of chemicals from children's toys. Again, why not Canada?
If we look at the act, as was mentioned by the member from Niagara, we see that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, is an act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.
Government is committed to the implementation of the precautionary principle and this is what it says in this act:
--where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation....
If we look at bioaccumulation in the fatty tissues of infants and the risk of developmental problems in infants and later in adults, the risk to health is quite easy to see.
We should be taking effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
The act is reviewed every five years. Two committees of Parliament are now apprised of the act: the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. However, we should not consider that just because the act is already under review, and probably other substances will be considered, we cannot act on these substances. We have enough knowledge to bring it forward, to bring it to committee, to have expert witnesses appear, to make modifications if they are required and thus protect our children and our environment.
When the member for Don Valley West spoke in the House, he mentioned that the addition of toxic substances such as the three phthalates is not something that requires us to wait for a CEPA review. Since 1999, we have added various substances to the list on a fairly regular basis and nothing precludes us from doing the same now. Environment Canada and Health Canada carried out assessments on these three phthalates between 1994 and 2000, so there should be a lot of knowledge about this.
My time is running short, but I think that if we look at what has happened internationally, it is quite easy for us to see that we should be doing the same in Canada. It is the minimum we should be doing.
There are many other products like this in our environment, such as linoleum, where children play, where we live every day. Many plastics products include these chemicals that surround us. As a start, the very minimum we should do is get this away from infants. Then, through the Environmental Protection Act, we can make sure that we remove these chemicals from circulation generally if that is what is needed and would improve our environment.
We know that there are alternatives out there and we know they are effective. They perform better. They are not more expensive. The more their production is in demand, the more there will be and the better they will be used. I am pleased to support the bill. I congratulate the member for bringing it forward.