Posted on November 1, 2010 (updated: November 1, 2010)

Canada acts to strengthen ban on toxic fire retardants

OTTAWA – Environmentalists are welcoming a new federal strategy that outlines a comprehensive ban of toxic polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a common flame retardant used in consumer products.

“This comprehensive ban on all PBDEs in all consumer products marks a real step forward in Canada’s approach to regulating toxic chemicals,” said Lisa Gue, environmental health policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and
Environmental Defence are welcoming the news after having filed a formal Notice of Objection to federal toxic regulations announced in 2006. Those regulations banned the import of two out of three PBDE mixtures but exempted the most widely used mixture, known as DecaBDE.

The objection filed by the groups argued that the government’s assessment of DecaBDE was outdated and called for a comprehensive ban, which prompted Environment Canada to update its assessment of
DecaBDE. Based on the findings of this scientific review, the government proposed a revised PBDE strategy to match European restrictions on DecaBDE in electronics and now also bans PBDEs in plastics and textiles.

“The challenge ahead is for government regulators to get ahead of the curve and ensure that PBDEs are replaced by inherently safer products and processes,” said Kathleen Cooper of CELA.

PBDEs are known to build up in the food chain and have been linked to cancer and effects on the developing brain and immune, reproductive and hormonal systems.

“Until now, regulation of toxic substances in Canada has traditionally targeted domestic manufacturing and has not extended to imported products, or targeted only certain product types in the case of BPA in baby bottles and a proposal on phthalates in children’s toys.

“Despite this positive result, it is disappointing that we had to wait more than three years for action on this issue,” said Elaine MacDonald of Ecojustice. “But the government is finally doing the right thing.”

“We are excited about the government’s proposal and what this means for Canadians,” added Dr. Rick
Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “A huge congrats for committing to get rid of these nasty substances.”

The major PBDE manufacturers announced last December, after negotiations with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, that they would phase out production of DecaBDEs by 2013 – the same year Canada’s regulations are scheduled to take effect.


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