Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to private member's Motion No. 102, which calls on the government to adopt regulations to limit formalydyde emissions from composite wood products intended for indoor use.
I also want to thank my colleague, the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, for all his work on this file and for bringing this very important matter before the House.
In addition to calling on the government to take action to limit the emissions of formaldehyde in indoor air, the member's motion further asks that regulations be developed that aim to be similar to those recently published by our neighbours to the south in the United States.
Our government agrees.
Our government supports the motion before us today.
Adopting regulations in that regard would build on a number of efforts that have been made so far to limit exposure to formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Basically, it will help better protect Canadians’ health, and that is why we are here. The health implications of formaldehyde are well known, and have been for some time now.
The Government of Canada assessed it under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, CEPA , in 2001. Our scientists concluded that it was toxic to both human health and the environment and added it to CEPA's list of toxic substances, commonly known as schedule 1 of the act. Its toxicity is also recognized by a number of reputable sources worldwide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as carcinogenic to humans.
Before going any further, perhaps we should answer this question. What is it? ·
Formaldehyde is a colourless substance that was commonly used as a raw material in many household consumer products and construction materials. Although the use of formaldehyde has diminished in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Australia because of its hazardous nature, the main source of indoor exposure continues to be the release of gas from products containing formaldehyde.
This includes the composite wood products that the motion before us today is speaking to. Composite wood is used in many applications, including the manufacture of wood panels, such as particle board in countertops, decorative plywood for cabinets, laminate flooring, or finished products such as furniture. Composite wood products are created by binding wood particles together with resin or another kind of adhesive that often contains formaldehyde. It is the off-gassing of formaldehyde from these products that can contribute to increased levels of formaldehyde in indoor air.
As members of the House know, formaldehyde is also produced by the combustion of fuel and any other organic material. In light of that, formaldehyde emissions from motor vehicle engines and the possession of certain formaldehyde solutions have been regulated in Canada since 2003 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
With respect to concerns about indoor air quality, which is where our focus lies today, the government has continued to take action.
In 2006, following a comprehensive risk assessment to determine safe limits of formaldehyde, the government published indoor air quality guidelines that are unique in North America and much of the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, a series of initiatives related to setting regulatory emission limits for formaldehyde from composite wood products was also beginning to gain steam.
These efforts truly began to pay off in 2007 when California adopted regulations to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood.
In 2010, the United States Congress enacted the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, which required the United States Environmental Protection Agency, otherwise known as the EPA, to develop national regulations. These regulations were published on December 12, 2016, and set emission limits for composite wood, similar to those in effect in California.
As everyone likely knows, California is a very large market and companies that sell their products there also sell their products across the United States and North America.
In order to continue selling their products in California, the major Canadian producers made investments to comply with the California standards, and are already well positioned to sell to the rest of the United States when the EPA regulation comes into force this December.
These measures are clearly intended for an industry that believes it would benefit these companies to align with market requirements to sell these products in Canada and the United States.
That said, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, I want to take a moment to highlight the contributions that Health Canada has made to this process in support of the mandate to protect the health of Canadians.
Between 2012 and 2015, the department carried out the testing of hundreds of different construction materials and products, so we could know which products were off-gassing formaldehyde into the homes of people. Armed with that information and data from our air quality monitoring, which indicated a need to drive down formaldehyde levels in indoor air, Health Canada then engaged the Canadian Standards Association to lead the development of a consensus-based standard that involved wide representation from industry. The standard, which is voluntary, specifies health-based emission limits for composite wood products. It was also developed to align with the regulations in the United States and California.
That said, it is important to determine whether the current voluntary approach will be enough once the EPA regulations come into force.
As a government, we have a responsibility to review the changing landscape, assess the possible impacts that this may have on the health of Canadians, and ask ourselves if a voluntary approach in Canada is sufficient to prevent these possibly harmful products from entering our country, and indeed our homes.
Despite actions taken to date, research confirms that formaldehyde continues to be found in the emissions from composite wood products available in the Canadian market, which includes imports from other countries and the indoor air in Canadian homes. Additionally, at times it continues to be found at levels which can adversely impact the health of Canadians, especially in newer homes.
As part of a series of indoor air quality studies, Health Canada measured the levels of formaldehyde in 500 homes between 2005 and 2015 in different cities in Canada. Every house had detectable levels of formaldehyde in its indoor air and roughly 8% of the homes exceeded Health Canada guidelines on residential indoor air quality for long-term exposure.
In other words, concentrations in excess of Health Canada guidelines may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat and may worsen asthma symptoms in children. The risks to human health are real and it is time to take action.
By supporting the motion, our government is proud to indicate that we support examining taking further steps to protect Canadians, and especially our children, from the risks of formaldehyde exposure.
The timing of this motion is auspicious. I am pleased to inform the House that Health Canada officials have already initiated discussions with various stakeholders and, together with Environment and Climate Change Canada, have begun drafting regulations to address this issue.
As the government moves forward in the consideration of regulations, I want to assure the House that we will consult with Canadian stakeholders and any interested Canadians to develop a made-in-Canada solution that will protect Canadians from the health risks associated with formaldehyde, which is my priority, but will also protect Canadian companies and the market from products that do not meet our high North American standards.
In closing, I would like to reiterate our government's support for this motion. It is an important and concrete way to protect Canadians' health and to support the growth and success of Canadian businesses. I understand that officials are eager move this file forward together with stakeholders and ensure that everyone is heard.
Today I have outlined the reasons why our government supports the motion. I would like to thank the member once again for bringing forward the motion. I look forward to working with all members of the House as we take action on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products intended for indoor use.
Once again, and I believe it is worth repeating, I would specifically like to thank the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for bringing this extremely important issue to the House. He works very hard to protect the health of Canadians, especially children.