On December 8, 2006, a new Chemicals Management Plan was unveiled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, and Minister of Health, the Honourable Tony Clement. The plan proposed to regulate chemicals that are harmful to human health and/or the environment.
The plan is part of the Federal government's comprehensive environmental agenda, which includes the Clean Air Act, support for public transit and action on renewable fuels. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that, "the Chemicals Management Plan will make Canada a world leader in assessing and regulating chemicals that are used in thousands of industrial and consumer products. It includes realistic and enforceable measures that will improve our environment and protect the health and safety of Canadians."
Since 1994, new chemicals have not been manufactured in Canada or imported here without undergoing a scientific risk assessment. The risk assessment is a scientific evaluation of a chemical substance. This evaluation determines the potential harm or danger a chemical substance can cause to human health and/or the environment and ways in which humans or the environment are exposed to the chemical substance.
To perform the risk assessment, scientists conduct research and look at existing studies from around the world and determine if something important is missing. They will use computer models or compare the chemical substance to other chemicals with similar characteristics. The scientific information on the hazardous properties and the human or environment exposure possibilities assists the Government of Canada in finding the right tools for controlling a chemical substance.
Currently, the List of Toxic Substances contains 85 individual or families of substances, which represent over 1,000 discrete chemical substances. Each chemical substance is unique and some are more complex than others.
When making decisions about the need for control or elimination, consideration must be given to the unique characteristics of a chemical substance. Chemicals used for a single use are easier to assess then a chemical that can be applied to many uses. Other considerations include; the many ways which the chemical may enter the environment and how the chemical may affect humans or non-human organisms differently depending on how they are encountered in the environment.
The Government of Canada plays a key role in protecting the environment from the risks of chemical substance under a number of laws. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) for example, scientists at Health Canada and Environment Canada assess chemical substances to determine if they pose a risk to human health and/or the environment. The Government of Canada develops regulations and other measures based on the findings of these assessments.
While the Government of Canada plays a key role, every level of government is involved. The provinces and territories govern a number of areas related to risks of chemical substances including, for example, industry permits and licenses. The provinces and territories also look after the management and delivery of health services for their residents. Municipalities run programs and make rules on pollution prevention activities such as recycling.
Canada's new Chemicals Management Plan is designed to further protect the environment through new regulations under CEPA 1999 and other acts. The Chemicals Management Plan includes initiatives such as a challenge to industry, restricted uses of certain chemicals, accelerated re-evaluations of some older pesticides, and changes to the way we dispose of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
In order to provide Canadians with the latest information about hazardous chemicals, the Government of Canada intends to commit $300 million over four years to implement the Chemicals Management Plan that will incorporate risk assessments, management responsibilities, monitoring and accountability. ??