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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendments.

Topics

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the member says in his bill that phthalates will be banned from certain products, what products are we talking about here? Could he give us a brief outline of the three phthalates?

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can keep this brief. The great importance of the debate we are having now is the need for a committee review to actually open up the discussion.

Of the three, BBP is the first. It is specifically banned from children's toys and anything meant to be used in children's mouths. DBP would be banned from children's toys and similarly anything meant to be used in children's mouths. It is also used in cosmetics. DEHP would be banned from children's toys, anything for children's mouths and any cosmetic. We also have to look at medical devices and blood bags because it is also used to keep blood bags soft. There has been great concern coming from the health practitioners. Someone who is using a blood bag most likely is ill. The potential leaching of these chemicals into a person who is not well seems contrary to the whole idea of entering a hospital in the first place.

Those are the specific bans that we are seeking. To be perfectly frank, there is a debate about where, when and how much needs to be banned, but the principle of the ban is strong and is supported by legislatures around the world.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-307 by the member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley, which is an act to prohibit the use of three types of phthalates, BBP, DBP and DEHP. I thank him for his work on this.

The Government of Canada is very concerned about the potential risks to human health, especially to children, from chemical substances used in manufacturing and which may be found in products that we use every day. For that reason we committed in the Speech from the Throne to achieve tangible improvements in our environment, including reductions in pollution. In the speech the Governor General of Canada stated:

Recognizing the important role of parliamentarians, members of Parliament will be asked to conduct comprehensive reviews of key federal legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, I am on the committee that is reviewing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, known as CEPA 1999. We are committed to working within that process. We are also committed to ensuring that CEPA 1999 is improved in order to increase its effectiveness in reducing the use and release of harmful substances.

This government has concerns about Bill C-307 because the departments of environment and health have already been actively engaged in scientifically assessing the environmental and human health risks of specific substances named in Bill C-307. The government has also taken action to address the risks that were identified through the scientific assessments.

Phthalates used in plastics also have important economic and operational benefits in Canada. I would first like to briefly explain the uses of phthalates in everyday life.

BBP is a plasticizer used in a variety of plastic products, including vinyl products such as floor tiles. It is also used to manufacture traffic cones, food conveyor belts, artificial leathers and plastic foams. The plasticizer makes the products flexible and easy to fabricate.

DBP is used in cosmetics and is a particularly common nail polish ingredient which makes polish resistant to chipping.

DEHP is a plasticizer used in medical devices such as intravenous tubing and medical bags which renders medical tubing resistant and resilient to kinks. Kinks can dangerously restrict the flow of medicine and life-saving fluids to patients, putting the safety of Canadians at risk. DEHP is also used in fragrances, hydraulic fluid and as a solvent in light sticks.

Health Canada and Environment Canada carried out assessments of these three substances between 1994 and 2000.

The assessments carried out under the authority of CEPA were peer reviewed to ensure accuracy and adequacy of coverage and were published for public comment prior to being finalized. The assessments concluded that all three substances are not harmful to the environment.

The human health assessment concluded that two of the three substances, namely BBP and DBP, did not pose any undue health risks. Therefore, Bill C-307 prohibitions on BBP and DBP are inconsistent with the peer reviewed scientific assessment conclusions.

However, the human health assessment of the third substance, DEHP, concluded that there are health risks associated with the exposure of this substance. In response to the assessment conclusion of DEHP, Health Canada requested the Canadian industry to discontinue the use of all phthalates in the manufacture of soft vinyl teethers and baby products that could be put in the mouth.

Today DEHP is already no longer used in the Canadian manufacture of soft vinyl teethers or baby products that could be put in the mouth and DEHP is not found in any cosmetics notified with Health Canada.

DEHP continues to be used in scientific medical devices. Based on extensive reviews conducted by Health Canada, it has been concluded that the use of DEHP has important benefits that are lacking in alternative substances.

One particular use of DEHP that potentially causes exposure to humans is its use in scientific medical devices. Based on extensive reviews conducted by Health Canada, it has been concluded that the use of DEHP has important benefits that are lacking with the alternatives. The use of DEHP in medical devices was reviewed by the Medical Devices Bureau of Health Canada. In addition, clinical practice guidelines have been developed with input from stakeholders and posted for comments on the Health Canada website.

Bill C-307 would have economic and practical repercussions in Canada since some alternatives to DEHP do not offer the same benefits that this substance possesses. Others are much more expensive, while others have inadequate safety data. Therefore, in these limited cases, the benefits of continued use outweigh the risks. The member's bill acknowledges these benefits by stating that the prohibition on use for medical devices should exclude blood bags, but these exclusions would have to be extended to other medical uses.

It is worth noting that on November 16, 1998, Health Canada issued as a precautionary measure a public health advisory informing parents and health care providers of very young children about the potential health risks posed by soft vinyl children's products containing another plasticizer, di-isononyl phthalate, DINP. This substance was not part of the assessment under CEPA but was found to be a replacement for DEHP.

At that time, parents and caregivers of children under the age of one were advised to dispose of soft vinyl teethers and rattles. In the interest of the health and safety of children, Health Canada also requested the industry to immediately stop production and sale of those products. As a result of this action, soft vinyl teethers and rattles containing DINP have been voluntarily withdrawn from the Canadian market.

Beyond these specific substances, the Government of Canada is very concerned about the risks to human health and especially to children from these chemicals. To prevent exposure to new harmful chemicals, Health Canada and Environment Canada assess potential risks of chemicals before they come into use in the Canadian marketplace and take steps to manage the risks or to prohibit the use of new chemicals where the risks cannot be adequately managed. This program has been in place for nearly 15 years and over 800 chemicals are assessed annually.

Through this program we collaborate with other countries to harmonize our assessments of new chemicals before they are introduced into commerce. This prevents the creation of new problems. This is an example of pollution prevention in action, which is a cornerstone of CEPA.

This government remains concerned about the human health impacts of existing sources of pollution and in particular, air pollution. This government is in the midst of comprehensive and integrated action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment. Canadians will see in the coming months, as we develop our made in Canada approach for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases, additional initiatives to protect our health and our environment.

We also recognize that instead of focusing our attention on one or a few substances at a time, this government needs to take a more comprehensive and integrated approach that will put Canada at the forefront of substance management.

The House of Commons assigned the review of CEPA 1999 to the Standing committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on April 26 of this year. The committee began hearings on May 10. The environment committee's review of CEPA will provide the Government of Canada with an opportunity to review the contribution of CEPA to the goals of pollution prevention, sustainable development and federal-provincial-territorial cooperation.

As I have said, this government is committed to ensuring that the health of our citizens and our environment is safeguarded. While we appreciate the intent of the member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley to eliminate phthalates, the government has already taken steps through the appropriate procedures and authorities in regard to BBP, DBP and DEHP.

Bill C-307 attempts to circumvent the comprehensive scientific assessment of phthalates and instead make an assessment based on politics. This legislation would unfortunately confuse and create redundancy within the process. I would encourage the member to respect the scientific assessment process. He indicated that he disagrees with the scientific assessment of phthalates. He called it pseudo-science.

I encourage him to instead use the appropriate process, which is the CEPA review. I would recommend that he bring his concerns and recommendations regarding phthalates to the department, which is carrying out the assessment. I look forward to discussing it in that context.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be using the parliamentary secretary's speech as a structure for my remarks.

The first thing to be noted is that the addition of toxic substances such as the three phthalates proposed by the bill is not something that requires us to wait for the CEPA review. If the member would look at the Canadian Environmental Protection Act itself and at schedule 1, he would see that since CEPA 1999, on a fairly regular basis, we have added various substances, until these that would be added would be numbered 80, 81 and 82. Therefore, there is a process that does not require us to wait for that.

Second, the crucial part of his argument, and he appealed to scientific research to guide our efforts, according to him, is that the last scientific studies were concluded in the period from 1994 to the year 2000. What has happened since then is that we have learned a great deal more about phthalates.

In fact, there have been several reviews by the national toxicological program referred to by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The first one to examine phthalates was in October 2000. In other words, it was outside the period that Health Canada was reviewing. There we are talking about DBP. This is the one that finds itself in children's toys and that sort of thing.

What they concluded after that first panel was that DBP can cause reproductive toxicity in adult rats and developmental toxicity in rats and mice, and it does so by oral routes, through the mouth. It induces structural malformation. These data are assumed to be relevant to humans. That is from a study which was concluded outside the scientific period.

Since then, and the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley also referred to this, there was another panel on phthalates in October 2005. There was quite a controversy about phthalates in August 2005. That panel has even more scientific evidence to point out the dangers of phthalates in general and some of those mentioned in the bill very specifically.

The idea is not to circumvent the CEPA review or science, but to incorporate science at a faster rate than we have been doing. The hon. member will know from sitting on the CEPA review that one of the most painful parts of this process is how long it takes us to recognize dangers and to act on them.

The other thing he will know from this review is that if we do not put these substances on now as dangerous, they tend to get ignored by the officials, who turn to things that are mandated. If we mandate the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment to do something, they are more likely to do it. That is what the bill would have the effect of doing.

This is not in the least inconsistent with peer review. This is simply a way of incorporating what we have been learning all through this process and, like the proposer of the bill, I think this is exactly what we ought to be doing. We ought to be finding ways of expediting our inclusion on toxic lists of things for which new evidence is emerging.

I would also point out that in his remarks one of the things he seems to have ignored is the specific limitations that the bill would place on the use of these three phthalates. It does not say they cannot be used for vinyl flooring or linoleum, which is one of the things that phthalates are used for. It excludes the blood bags that he refers to. Presumably when it gets to committee we can refine further some of these exclusions.

It is very specific. It is not going to be a disruptor of the economy to say that this should be done in very specific instances where there is stronger evidence since the last time Health Canada looked at it and where the international response has been far more vigorous than it has been in Canada.

I think the reference to the ban in the European Union for all toys and child care articles tells us that we are too slow. Why should we wait on these prohibitions when the evidence from larger markets on the precautionary principle shows that we would not want to take a chance on this stuff? Why would we not want to act now?

Why is it that we must wait until the CEPA review is finished? The CEPA review may not be finished for another year, and yet the accumulating evidence, including last month's toxicological study from the National Institutes of Health in the United States, tells us that we know enough under the precautionary principle to say that these three substances ought not to be used in this very particular way, not the generalized way described by the hon. member.

In conclusion, I am going to urge my colleagues to support this bill. I do so because there is the scientific weight of evidence in terms of risk to human health. I do not think we need to know more than that. We can refine this if we send the bill to committee. I think this is exactly what parliamentarians should do. It is not something that is inconsistent with the spirit of CEPA, which allows itself to have these toxic substances added from time to time as the scientific evidence becomes stronger.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-307, An Act to prohibit the use of benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) in certain products and to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

At the outset, I would like to inform the House that we intend to support the principle of the bill introduced by the NDP member. The precautionary principle must guide our deliberations throughout the study of this bill. We must ensure that if Canadians are to come into contact with a certain number of substances—even if we are not aware of all of the health risks they may pose—we are guided by the precautionary principle.

Phthalate is used along with other chemicals in many products. It is in BBP, DBP and DEHP, which are used to coat a number of products, making them more supple and flexible. The most commonly used compounds are the DEHPs, which are present in 40% of soft PVC plastics.

PVC is also used in the manufacture of various products, such as toys, flooring, tiles, blood bags, medical devices and food packaging. PVC is also found in the additives of cosmetics such as nail polish, hygiene products such as shampoo, and pharmaceutical products.

How can we be exposed to these substances, which can most certainly be considered toxic, depending on the dose and the percentage used in each product?

First through the mouth. I am thinking in particular of our children who use soothers or pacifiers which may be composed of these substances, substances which can have an impact on their health.

Second, in toys.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Not any more, the parliamentary secretary will tell us. That is true. However, he must admit that certain toys could contain PVC. Of course, in 1998 the government decided to change its directive to state that even imported products intended for infants must not contain these PVC ingredients.

Third, by inhaling certain dusts found on construction materials. That too can be dangerous.

Fourth, by absorption through the skin. We know that certain medical devices and accessories contain PVC, which makes the material more flexible. So inevitably, being absorbed through the skin, these products directly enter the body, and people are exposed to these substances.

Finally, by ingestion, since certain food product containers may contain the PVC in question.

What are the effects of exposure to PVC?

First, there is an impact on the endocrine system. I will leave it at that. Problems related to the endocrine system have been detected in certain adolescents, certain young people.

Next, there is also an impact in terms of testicular problems. We have come to realize that overexposure to these products could even have some degree of impact on human fertility.

Finally, it is most probably with regard to children that we have to be concerned about the effects of this certain exposure.

To summarize, here is where PVC is to be found.

It is found in three major types of products: toys, cosmetics and medical devices.

With regard to toys, in 1998, following an assessment of risks associated with objects containing DINP that are intended for children, Health Canada concluded that the amount of DINP released by flexible PVC products could pose a risk to the health and safety of children aged three months to one year. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have since been obliged to ensure that flexible plastic soothers and rattles are free of DINP, DEHP and all other phthalate products.

In Canada and the United States, phthalates are no longer found in toys or objects that may be put in children’s mouths. However it is still possible to find this type of product in toys designed for older children, thus posing a potential risk of exposure for them. So phthalates can be found in certain toys, and children over the age of three could very easily leave their toys lying around, with the result that infants might put this type of product containing PVC in their mouths. So it seems clear to me that there must be a total ban so far as toys are concerned.

Next, regarding cosmetics, hon. members will recall that a few years ago, the government and Health Canada announced their intention to amend the cosmetics regulations so as to require that cosmetics manufacturers and distributors disclose the ingredients on the labels. The government opted for an approach that would provide transparency for consumers so that consumers could know more about the products they use and see whether they contain PVCs. On this, I agree completely with the hon. member. We have to make sure that PVCs in cosmetics are banned, even if this is not necessarily what Health Canada recommended.

Lastly, the only reservation I have about the member's bill concerns medical devices. We know that some medical procedures present a higher risk of DEHP exposure, such as multiple transfusions of blood products and extracorporeal oxygenation in newborns, pregnant women or nursing mothers, multiple transfusions of blood products in general and also heart transplants or cardiopulmonary bypass procedures. We have to protect these groups at risk, but we have to make sure that people can continue receiving quality care. Before we issue a complete ban, particularly in connection with medical devices, we have to make sure that there are replacement products on the market. Otherwise, people's quality of life could be threatened.

The Institut national de santé publique du Québec even feels that until medical devices without phthalates are on the market, it is not recommended or even warranted to deprive the public of some types of treatments or procedures that can be beneficial to health and whose outcome outweighs the dangers of exposure.

In general, we will support the bill on two of the three categories of products mentioned. With regard to medical devices, we want assurances, before they are banned completely, that replacement products are available so that people will receive quality care.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate and to join with others who are supporting the good work done by my colleague, the member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley. I congratulate my colleague for bringing forward an issue that pertains to the health and well-being of our children. There is probably nothing more important that we could do as legislators than to protect the very youngest in our society from toxic and dangerous substances.

Mr. Speaker, you will know, since you were here long before I was, that this issue has been debated many times in the House. The last time I recall the debate was back in 1998 when my colleague, the member for Acadie--Bathurst, brought a motion to the House recommending that labelling be placed on all products that contained phthalates so that parents would know how to choose products that were safe for their kids.

In 1999, I brought forward Bill C-482 which was intended to amend the Hazardous Products Act to prohibit the sale and advertising of products that contained phthalates in certain quantities that were dangerous to young children.

We have been at this a long time and it is time for action.

What I find so interesting in today's debate is that back in 1999 when the Liberals were in government they used the same arguments against moving in this direction, acting on the precautionary principle, that the Conservatives are now enunciating. It is because they are in government and they are getting the same material from the same bureaucrats and the same political advice from industry heads and so on without thinking about the real issues here and what this place can do.

It is interesting to hear the Conservative member say that Health Canada took measures back in 1998. What did it do? It put out a warning. It put out an advisory. It encouraged industry to stop producing products that might be dangerous. However, no definitive action was taken to ensure that these products, which children chew on and which can be dangerous to their health and well-being, were removed.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

That's nonsense. It has already been banned.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

My colleague from the Conservative side says that it has been done but I beg to differ. It has not been done in terms of the scientific evidence that is available on all the toxins mentioned by my colleague from Skeena--Bulkley Valley on a widespread basis so that all children are not exposed to these very dangerous toxins.

As my colleague on the Liberal side said, the science is in. We have had numerous studies suggesting that we know enough about these phthalates to take more serious action to protect our children. We no longer need to second guess these studies. We do not need to suggest that all of the evidence is not in. We have the science and all we need is the political will of the government of the day to act on this advice and take much more decisive action than the feeble steps that were taken by the Liberals back in 1998 or 1999.

Where does all this lead us? After all these years of debate I hope we have a consensus to move forward with something much more definitive and clear in terms of legislative action. My colleague from Skeena--Bulkley Valley has suggested a clear route in terms of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I think he can address the Liberals' concerns about the use of CEPA and suggest that we will not slow down the process at all. We will take shortcuts or end runs but we can use CEPA for what it was intended and that is to protect human beings from products that are dangerous to our health and well-being.

We have a growing consensus. We have the most up to date science. We have many advocates who know the impact on children's health in terms of their abilities. We know the connection between the exposure to phthalates and the serious neurological problems and learning disabilities. Now is the time for action. We can do it now by voting in favour of the bill, sending it to committee, looking at some of the concerns that have been raised, fine tuning the process and taking a step forward.

It is critical that we act decisively to protect our children and to build a strong marketable economy. Other countries have taken serious actions on this issue and they have not lost economic growth or business opportunities. The numerous countries that have chosen to act in a more decisive way than Canada have benefited in the long run because they have acted in terms of prevention of health problems and not waited for serious issues to develop which are costly to our health care system.

The precautionary principle is one that we have tried to get the government of the day, whether Liberal or Conservative, to address over the years. The concept is simple: do no harm. It means do not allow products on the market, even though we are not sure about them, because we can always act afterwards but of course it is too late. It is instead to put the onus on industry, toy producers, manufacturers of soothers, plastic blood bags and whatever other plastic products are out there to ensure those products will not leach phthalates into the blood systems of young children who will then suffer serious consequences.

If we would just apply that one fundamental principle, which is so intrinsic to who we are as Canadians in terms of our Food and Drugs Act, we would be so much further ahead in terms of this nation and our future.

I urge everyone to support the bill so we can finally do what Canadians are counting on us to do.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The time provided for the consideration of private members’ business has now expired and the motion is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-2, An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this matter is now at the report stage and that we have been given the opportunity to examine these clauses individually. All of the ones that have been accepted and the ones that we are about to deal with now in this group do nothing except strengthen the bill. This is the most important legislation that Parliament has seen in some time in terms of bringing back accountability and transparency to government. I, quite frankly, am very pleased with all the cooperation the bill has received up to this point.

I am sure Canadians all across the country applaud when legislation of this nature is brought in. I am pleased to have the opportunity to add those words to this debate.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I will be putting the questions one at a time.

The question is on Motion No. 8. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

(Motion No. 8 agreed to)

The next question is on Motion No. 13. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

(Motion No. 13 agreed to)

The next question is on Motion No. 14. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.