The Canadian government has published a proposed Order to add plastic microbeads to the Toxic Substances List and has announced it is developing regulations to ban their use.  

Microbeads are synthetic polymer particles manufactured to be larger than 0.1 micrometer and smaller than or equal to five millimeters and are commonly used in personal care products such as scrubs, bath products, facial cleaners and toothpastes. Environment Canada studies consider microbeads to be eco-toxic but there is no evidence of human health concerns linked to the release of microbeads into the environment.

Once microbeads are added to the Toxic Substances List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), the government intends to introduce regulations to reduce the release of microbeads into the environment. The proposed regulations would prohibit the:

  • Manufacture of microbeads in Canada 
  • Import of microbeads to Canada
  • Sale and offer for sale of microbead containing personal care products used to exfoliate or cleanse in Canada

The recent government news release confirms that a survey of industry stakeholders will be undertaken to gather specific information required to support the planned actions on microbeads. No date has been specified at this stage for the implementation of this new legislation.

The government has also issued a Notice under section 71(1)(b) of CEPA requiring persons who imported, exported or used a total of more than 10 kg of microbeads in 2014 to provide the government with information relating to such import, export and use.

These new measures are part of the government’s Chemical Management Plan, which commits to address 4,300 priority chemicals and the risks that they pose to the health of Canadians and the environment. To date, 2,700 chemicals have been considered.