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Canadian Government Taking Critical Look at More Chemical Substances

Canadian Government Taking Critical Look at More Chemical Substances

This week, the Government of Canada announced that it will be moving forward with plans to test the safety of around 1,000 substances that are found in consumer products. Phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), anti-bacterial agent triclosan and many more substances that affect hormone function or affect the environment will be put under a microscope. All told, this renewal of the government’s Chemicals Management Plan is expected to cost more than $500 million over five years.

When making the announcement, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said:

As a mom, I want to know that every product I give to my family and use in my house is safe.  We know our consumer protection policies are already at work for Canadians. In fact, a science-based study concluded BPA was harmful to human health and the environment, so it was banned from baby bottles.

Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, added that “Canadians want to have confidence in the products they use everyday, and reassurance that they are not harmful to the environment.”

This new research and assessment is a follow-up to previous work that resulted in changes in Canadian regulations. Canada is the first country to have declared BPA a toxic substance and banned its use in baby bottles.  In addition to the BPA baby bottle ban, the first stage of the Chemicals Management Plan resulted in bans of many other substances, a stain-repellent chemical used in clothing, a phosphate-based chemical used in toys and other children’s products and 22 cosmetics ingredients.

One of the challenges, of course, with such studies and decisions are the many shades of grey. Aglukkaq and Kent both speak in absolutes. They talk about the need for Canadians to know that products are “safe.” However, when it comes to the many chemical substances in our consumer products, safety is relative and just because a product is approved by the government doesn’t mean it poses no risk at all. The partial BPA ban is case in point. It has been banned from baby bottles due to the high exposure that babies would receive if they are frequently drinking from a bottle with BPA. However, a breastfed baby getting an occasional bottle with BPA may, in fact, be at less risk than a family that uses refillable water bottles with BPA and eats a lot of canned food from BPA-lined cans.

Related stories:

New Study Looks at Effects of Chronic and Continuous BPA Exposure

European Union Bans BPA Baby Bottles

Protect Our Young: Get BPA Out of the Food Supply

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Photo credit: Annie Urban

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27 comments

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8:34PM PST on Dec 30, 2011

I wonder what they will find and what they will do about those findings.

9:30AM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Thanks.

5:20AM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Harper can't be trusted, like look at the tar sands and wanting to be leaders in GMO technology and not about to label anything.

4:12PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

I am glad that the government is doing this. Even if they choose not to ban all of the chemicals or substances outright (PBA is an example), at least it will help increase the public's awareness of the concerns. Then, we as consumers can make more informed decisions. The more information we have the better.

3:33PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

This is a good thing that the Canadian government is doing.

But they won't get any praise from the NDP or Liberals who voted against this effort when the Conservatives were just a minority government.

Now that the Conservatives have a majority government they can implement this.

2:39PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Thanks for the article!
We still have a lot of work to be done in Canada in food safety!!!

12:19PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

@Duane B. - don't count on it

- a disgruntled Canadian

8:44AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

It is about time. These chemicals should have been tested before they found their way into our products and foodstuffs.

8:38AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Good for Canada!

7:49AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Very interesting article. I think the cleaning products we had back in the 50's was good enough then and it should be now. Good old soap, water, vinigar and muscle power did the trick.

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