Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on March 21, 2013 (updated: March 21, 2013)

Is the Canadian government flaming out on PBDEs?

By Hugh Wilkins, staff lawyer

One year ago, the government announced plans to ban toxic PBDE flame retardants. But we haven’t heard a peep about PBDEs from Environment Canada since the big announcement last August and there’s still no sign of the promised regulation.

At the time, environmental groups welcomed the news that these toxic chemicals — used primarily in plastics, like TVs, office furniture and plastic shipping pallets — were on their way out. PBDEs have been linked to cancer, adverse effects on the developing brain, and immune and reproductive problems. They also build up in the environment — and in the bodies of polar bears and killer whales, and even humans. Rising levels of PBDEs have been measured in Canadian women’s breast milk.

PBDEs are listed as toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and Environment Canada’s scientific review concluded that a ban is needed to protect the environment from all PBDE mixtures. Yet despite last year’s announcement, the most common PBDE mixture, DecaBDE, remains unrestricted in Canada and continues to contaminate our environment and our bodies.

Environment Canada’s Risk Management Strategy for PBDEs sets out a schedule for “consultations and information-gathering” in 2010-2011, and publication of a regulatory ban in 2012. This wasn’t an ambitious timeline to begin with, and now Canada seems poised to miss the first milestone. With only four months left in 2011, the consultations that were scheduled to wrap up this year haven’t even begun. Meanwhile other jurisdictions — like the European Union and several U.S.states — have moved more swiftly to outlaw Deca. Canada is at risk of becoming a dumping ground for this toxic chemical as manufacturers in other countries take advantage of the delay at Environment Canada.

The prime minister has said Canada will become a world leader in chemicals management. But announcements with no follow-through won’t reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals. Canada needs the political will and the capacity within Environment Canada to actually implement the necessary controls to protect our health and our environment.

Check out the letter sent to Canada’s Environment Minister, Peter Kent from Ecojustice legal counsel on behalf of DSF, Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Click “share” and send this message to Canada’s Environment Minister, Peter Kent at Include a note calling on him to ban DecaBDE sooner rather than later.
Text of our letter to Peter Kent

August 24, 2011

The Honourable Peter Kent
Minister of the Environment
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3

Dear Minister Kent:

Re: Implementation of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE)
Revised Risk Management Strategy

We write to you on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence regarding the regulation of the toxic chemicals polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Last September we wrote to then Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice that we were very pleased that the August 2010 revised risk management strategy forPBDE flame retardants under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) includes a comprehensive ban on all PBDEs, including PBDEs in products.

The revised risk management strategy committed the government to information gathering and consultations on the additional proposed regulatory controls in 2010-2011 in preparation for the publication of the proposed regulation controls in 2012 for finalization under CEPA in 2012.

Since the release of the revised risk management strategy there have been no further consultations on this issue to our knowledge. We are concerned that the government may be falling behind on the timeline it published in the revised risk management strategy.

If the government delays action, it risks Canada becoming a dumping ground forPBDE-laden products that other countries have already banned.

We ask that the government accelerate work to implement the revised risk management strategy and move quickly to put in place the comprehensive ban on all PBDEs, including DecaBDE, to reduce Canadians exposure to these toxic chemicals and prevent further accumulation of PBDEs in the Canadian environment.

We look forward to future discussions with the government on the proposed regulatory controls.

Yours truly,

Hugh Wilkins
Staff Lawyer
Ecojustice Canada

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