That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) adopt regulations on formaldehyde emissions for composite wood products intended for indoor use that are sold, provided, or supplied for sale in Canada; and (b) ensure that these regulations are similar to US Environmental Protection Agency regulations enforcing the formaldehyde emissions standards in the US Toxic Substances Control Act Title VI in order to protect the health of Canadians who use these products.
Madam Speaker, I hope the debate we have here this evening, or late this afternoon, will allow us to have objective discussions that are perhaps a little less animated than what we saw in the dying minutes of the past hour.
Again, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to move Motion No.102 on a subject that is very important to me. The purpose of the motion is to ensure that we adopt Canadian regulations on formaldehyde emissions.
Formaldehyde is a toxic substance that originates, for example, in composite wood products that are used indoors and causes serious health problems.
I am the father of four young boys. Obviously my children's health, and the health of my family, is important to me. I must admit that, sometimes, I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to protecting my children's health. For example, I ask them to make sure they carefully wash the fruits and vegetables they eat. I sometimes even do it myself to help them. I also ask them to wash their hands really thoroughly. I turn off the WiFi every night before they go to bed.
Obviously, for their protection, I make sure they live in a safe environment. We own a home and, over the years, I have done renovations by installing floating flooring, a new kitchen, and new cabinets. Then, on a visit to a composite wood panel manufacturing facility during the election campaign, I learned that some foreign manufacturers use formaldehyde-based resins.
I was shocked because I thought that formaldehyde had been banned from all wood composite products. I thought that Canada had regulations to limit, reduce, or eliminate formaldehyde emissions. I was therefore extremely shocked to learn that Canada does not have any regulations or concrete measures in place to eliminate formaldehyde emissions.
When I did some digging to find out more about what kind of protection was in place and how to avoid formaldehyde emissions, I came across an article about Hurricane Katrina. I learned that the 2005 hurricane had some major consequences. People in Louisiana were evacuated, then relocated and housed in mobile homes. In the weeks following relocation, as they were settling into those mobile homes, people started getting sick. They were having respiratory problems.
Finally, after all kinds of tests, it came to light that those mobile homes were made with wood composites that contained formaldehyde. All kinds of legal action ensued in pursuit of compensation from the manufacturers that produced those products and built those mobile homes. In 2012, the disputes were settled.
In 2015, the American program60 Minutes investigated the matter and found that foreign manufacturers of composite wood panels were selling lots of formaldehyde-containing composite products to the U.S., such as floating floors. Therefore, 60 Minutes investigated further and found that no measures were in place to regulate formaldehyde emissions and that Americans were getting sick from exposure to formaldehyde emissions.
Obviously, the reaction of Americans was very negative. After the show aired, the U.S. government introduced very strict regulations in order to eliminate formaldehyde from composite wood products.
We are in the House today to ensure that Canada, which does not have such regulations or concrete measures to limit formaldehyde emissions, can adopt similar regulations. That is why I moved Motion No. 102. We will debate the elements of this motion.
As I was saying earlier, the objective of Motion No. 102 is to introduce Canadian regulations on formaldehyde emissions for composite wood products for indoor use that are sold, provided, or supplied for sale in Canada. These regulations should be similar to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations enforcing the formaldehyde emission standards in the Toxic Substances Control Act, Title VI, through a certification process to establish levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products.
It is important to note that U.S. regulations introduced last year will go into force in December 2017. That is an important factor to be considered in our debate. I will repeat that the U.S. regulations will go into effect in December 2017, which is in the months to come.
Once again, formaldehyde is a colourless gas that infiltrates the air in two different ways. It can enter the air through gas emissions from construction materials or household products, or from the combustion of these products. The effects of formaldehyde on health are known, have been studied for many years, and are well documented by Health Canada.
High concentrations of formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; cause breathing problems; and worsen asthma symptoms in children and infants. They can even cause cancer. That is why this gas was declared toxic in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Formaldehyde is found in many construction materials made using composite panels. Composite panels are made using recycled wood residue, and these consumer products are becoming increasingly common in the everyday lives of Canadians.
These panels have many uses, including in the manufacture of furniture, desks, bookcases, kitchen cabinets, flooring, and toys. Formaldehyde comes primarily from the resin that is used as an adhesive in the manufacture of these composite wood panels and hardwood plywood.
As my colleagues may already be aware, Health Canada has developed general guidelines regarding indoor air quality in homes. Those guidelines set out maximum levels for two kinds of formaldehyde exposure: short-term and long-term exposure.
These guidelines also provide information regarding the known health effects of indoor air contaminants, sources of indoor air contaminants, the recommended exposure limits, and recommendations to reduce exposure to pollutants.
Although there is a formaldehyde emission standard for composite wood panels and hardwood plywood, CAN/CSA-0160, it is a voluntary standard. That is very important to remember. It is a voluntary standard. Manufacturers are under no obligation to abide by it like they would be if it were a regulation arising from legislation.
It is vital that we protect Canadians from the harmful effects of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels and hardwood plywood. As a result, the motion we are debating today is crucial and resolves problems that are not addressed in Canadian regulations. If this regulation is not adopted, the situation that I explained earlier could get worse when the American regulations take effect in December 2017.
The motion seeks to protect the health of Canadians who buy or use these products and ensure that Canadian consumers have access to high quality building materials.
The Canadian regulations must be consistent with the American ones. Here is why. On December 12, 2016, the United States published the final version of its national regulations on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products in order to protect the American citizens that purchase them. Once again, the health effects of this toxic gas are known and have been studied.
Any American or foreign manufacturer of composite wood wishing to sell or supply products to American consumers will have until December 12, 2017, to comply with the certification program and the new U.S. environmental requirements. Through these regulations, the United States has clearly indicated to manufacturers of composite panels that the health of Americans comes first.
Since the majority of Canadian manufacturers of composite panels have already made investments to ensure that their facilities meet the new U.S. standards, they will be able to continue exporting their products to the United States. Their operations will not be affected.
However, some foreign manufacturers of composite panels, who have not made the necessary investments in their operations to meet the new U.S. standards, will try to liquidate their products in countries that do not have such strict standards, such as Canada.
If that happens, the use of those composite panels, which have very high formaldehyde emissions, could obviously have serious effects on the health of Canadians who buy or use these products.
Canada needs to have a certification process that is similar to that of the United States in order to protect Canadian consumers by guaranteeing that the products they buy meet the highest standards of protection from formaldehyde emissions.
As I said, I am the father of four young boys, and their health is very important to me. Had I known that the products I bought in recent years contained formaldehyde, I would obviously have decided to buy something else.
As I said earlier, when I found out that Canada has no real measures to protect Canadians from the harmful effects of formaldehyde in the air, I decided to do something. That is why I came up with this motion and put it before the House. It is my duty as a father to safeguard the health of my children and my family.
If Canada does not adopt measures to protect Canadians from the health effects of formaldehyde, companies that manufacture composite panels that do not comply with U.S. standards could target the Canadian market to dump their products.
We must fix this problem and adopt regulations that are similar to American regulations, which are particularly strict. Once in place, those Canadian regulations will protect the health of Canadians.
By basing our standards on the American standards, Canadian regulations will limit the emission of formaldehyde, ensure that imported products meet the new Canadians standards, ensure correct labelling, ensure that all products are tested, and lastly, implement a certification process that will be done by accredited entities.
The composite panel manufacturing sector consists of 13 plants in Canada that are located in six different provinces. Seventy percent of its output is exported to the United States. This is an important economic sector that generates revenues of $3.4 billion.
Like many others who share my objective, I am very proud to have a plant in my riding that has adopted the highest standards when it comes to protecting the people of our region and all Canadians.
To summarize, I want to commend Canadian composite panel manufacturers on their leadership; they have made the investments needed to conform to the highest standards and limit Canadians' exposure to formaldehyde emissions.
Once again, I am pleased to present and table this motion in the House to help keep Canadians safe.