Comparing Canada's Chemicals Policies
Not That Innocent: A Comparative Analysis of Canadian, European Union, and United States Policies on Industrial Chemicals, identifies “best practices” from among the policies in the three jurisdictions that most effectively protect human health and the environment. The 140-page report was written by Senior Health Program Scientist, Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., of Environmental Defense.
The report contrasts Canada’s recently completed categorization of chemicals and resulting Chemicals Management Plan with the European Union’s ambitious Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation and comparable efforts in the United States.
Among the differences identified between Canada’s plan and those in Europe and the United States are:
- In terms of ‘Identifying and prioritizing chemicals of concern’, Canada has articulated relatively clear criteria for defining toxic substances and for listing them as toxic substances or candidates for virtual elimination, while criteria in the U.S. are few, not clearly articulated and usually presented as general guidelines to be applied on a case-by-case basis.
- For new chemicals that are allowed to be manufactured by the notifier only if in compliance with specified conditions, Canada has a requirement for other companies using the chemical to go through a full notification and review process. REACH requires each producer or importer of a chemical to register it, either with other producers or individually. Except in a few cases, the US EPA allows any subsequent company may produce or import a chemical without EPA’s knowledge or ability to know the practices it is using or the uses of the chemical.
- For reporting significant changes in chemical manufacture, downstream processing, use and exposure information, the Canadian system lacks regular reporting, and only has tiered notifications for new chemicals up to 10,000 kilograms/year. The U.S. system has regular reporting, but only every five years, with no generally applicable requirement to report significant changes. REACH will have no regular reporting, but will require reporting of any significant changes and as each registration tier is reached.
- For new chemicals, a tiered notification or registration approach is already employed in Canada and will be used in the EU under REACH, with specific data requirements delineated at each tier, but applied only after manufacture has begun. In the U.S., notification is pre-manufacture, which can allow for potential concerns to be addressed early.
- Unlike notification under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), REACH does not tie registration to government review, so that chemicals may begin or continue manufacture even in the absence of review.
According to the author, implementation of the best practices identified in the report can facilitate a shift toward policies that are knowledge-driven, that motivate and reward, rather than impede and penalize, the development of information sufficient to provide a reasonable assurance of safety for chemicals.
Such policies would also place more of the burden of providing and acting on that information on those who stand to profit financially from the production and use of chemicals, and are arguably in the best position to internalize such information and use it from the outset to design out risk from their products, adds Denison.
The full report is available here.
The full health and environmental impacts of many chemicals in everyday use are not fully known, but research in recent years has cause concern among governments, businesses, and the public.
As a result, another recent report examines toxic chemical risk from an investor perspective, and provides a comprehensive set of action steps that can be taken by investors to translate the long-term threats and opportunities associated with toxic chemical issues into prudent portfolio stewardship.
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