Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this important discussion on Bill C-224. I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, for sponsoring the bill, and I would like to thank all firefighters in Canada for serving our communities and for risking their lives to keep us all safe.
Firefighters face dangers and risk their lives to protect us and our communities. The hazards they face go beyond the bravery and self-sacrifice of running into burning buildings to save lives. Firefighters also put themselves in harm's way from exposure to toxic chemicals such as certain harmful flame retardants in upholstered furniture, mattresses and electronic devices, among others, when responding to fires.
While firefighters wear personal protective equipment for a level of protection, exposure to these harmful chemicals either through skin contact or inhalation are known to increase the risk of certain types of cancers and lung disease and to cause other adverse health effects.
That is why last summer the government announced a comprehensive action plan to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals released during household fires. Today, I am pleased to tell the House about the action plan and the measures already under way to protect these first responders in their life-saving work, but also to speak about why I feel this framework is so important as we move forward in the protection of our firefighters.
In the Government of Canada's firefighter action plan, the plan aims to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals with a particular focus on chemical flame retardants that are found in many household items, like upholstered furniture and electronics. Chemical flame retardants can save lives by slowing the ignition and spread of fire. However, they can also cause harmful health effects like cancer or impaired fertility when burned and inhaled.
The plan lays out five key areas of action. First, the government will prohibit harmful chemical flame retardants in Canada. To date, we have assessed over 150 flame retardants and have restricted or phased out those that are harmful to human health or the environment. Fourteen more chemical flame retardants are currently undergoing assessment, with even more to be assessed within the next two years to determine if they are harmful and require further actions.
Prohibiting or restricting harmful chemical flame retardants can help minimize firefighters' and other Canadians' exposure to these chemicals and their adverse health effects. I am really pleased to see the government has made this progress, because when I was on the environment committee, we looked at this issue under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It is good to see that work is happening but more work needs to be done.
Second, we are working with industry to promote the use of alternatives to chemical flame retardants to comply with fire safety standards. To support the move away from harmful flame retardants, the government has updated five industry guidance documents on flammability requirements in consumer products. These updated materials emphasize ways that industry can comply without using chemical flame retardants and encourage manufacturers to design products differently such as using inherently flame-resistant materials like wool.
Third, our government is working with universities and firefighters to advance research on the health effects of chemical flame retardants and to monitor firefighters' levels of exposure to harmful chemicals. Monitoring the levels of these chemicals in firefighters, combined with new research data, provides important information that will help regulators target harmful chemicals. We will continue to share results of this research and monitoring with the scientific community and with the international community of firefighters to advance broader efforts to protect firefighters.
Fourth, we are going to use results of this research and monitoring to inform best practices for firefighters to help reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals. Our government has collaborated with universities and firefighters to research existing strategies, including personal protective equipment that reduces exposure to chemicals to determine their effectiveness. This important work will help improve existing best practices and identify new measures that can be implemented at the local, national and international levels.
Finally, we will continue to increase transparency and promote information sharing to raise awareness about the use of chemical flame retardants in products available to consumers. Empowering consumers to make informed choices can reduce exposure to harmful chemicals for Canadians, including firefighters.
Our government is committed to enhancing supply chain transparency and strengthening mandatory labelling of consumer products. To this end, in March, the government launched a national consultation asking the public to help identify, develop, prioritize and test innovative solutions for improving transparency about chemicals in products. This consultation will inform the government's future work on a broad strategy for labelling toxic chemicals in consumer products, including flame retardants in upholstered furniture.
These strengthened measures and increased awareness will make a tangible impact for firefighters. This is particularly true in my community where only 13 cancers in British Columbia are listed as work-related.
Last week I met with representatives from Surrey, Township of Langley and City of Langley firefighters who either have or know a colleague who has suffered from an occupational cancer. Richard from Station 1271 in Surrey told me that, in his 18-year career, he has seen nine occupational disease line of duty deaths. Of the nine, six have tragically lost their lives to occupational cancers, including Deputy Chief John Watt, battalion chiefs William Robertson and David Rivett, and captains Patrick Glendenning, Randy Piticco and Leslie Dionne. Most of these members worked at the same fire hall for most of their careers. Sadly, we know there will be more Surrey and Langley members added to this list.
One thing has stayed with me since speaking with firefighters locally. Richard told me that, in the case of occupational cancers, “If it is on you, it is in you.” This has never been so true.
Dan Gray from the City of Langley and Jordan Sparrow from the township also shared their insights, and all shared the hope that work will move ahead to continue creating national consistency in identifying occupational cancers across Canada.
The government's action plan is a comprehensive approach to protecting firefighters from harmful chemicals released during household fires. Significant progress is being made in its implementation through banning harmful chemical flame retardants and supporting the development and use of safer alternatives. As part of the firefighters action plan, the government is also conducting research, monitoring levels of exposure to chemicals and identifying practices that could protect our firefighter population from long-term harm. Lastly, the government is sharing information to help raise awareness about the presence of chemicals, including flame retardants, in consumer products.
All these reasons are why the government has done so much work, and I think we need to be aware of the work that has happened and that there is more work that needs to be done. That is why I so proudly stand here today in support of Bill C-224 and the work we are doing to identify a national framework for firefighters.