Beginning the Detox of Canada

Bill 167′s purpose is quite simple:

“to prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances, and to inform Ontarians about toxic substances”

The bill, introduced on April 7 in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, is compared favorably to the 1989 Massachusetts’ Toxics Reduction Act (TURA).  Under the Massachusetts’ program, hundreds of companies have reduced their use of highly hazardous compounds like anhydrous ammonia, cyanide, trichloroethylene and lead and saved millions of dollars in the process.  The Ontario Province hopes to replicate Massachusetts’ success.

When the Bill 167 was introduced by Environment Minister John Gerretsen, Environmental Defence (Canada) said “the detox of Canada has begun,” and called the bill a “significant step forward for the protection of the environment and human health.”   Environmental Defence’s news release also noted:

“Ontario is the largest air-emitter of cancer-causing chemicals in Canada.  Data from 2004 (the most recent comparative data available) also showed that Ontario was second only to Texas in terms of tonnes of toxic chemicals being released and transferred in North America.  Blood sample testing by Environmental Defence over the past few years has consistently shown that many hazardous chemicals, such as lead and mercury, are found in the bodies of Canadians.” [emphasis added; interesting how they mention Texas, eh?]

Ontario’s Bill 167 would require certain facilities to:

  • track and quantify the toxic substances used and created at the facility; 
  • prepare a toxic substance reduction plan for each toxic substance used or created at the facility
  • have the plan certified both by the highest ranking employee at the facility with management responsibilities and by a proposed toxics reduction planner;
  • prepare summaries of their plans and make them available to the public in accordance with regulations; and,
  • report to the Ministry of the Environment on their progress in reducing toxic substances and make certain information available to the public in accordance with regulations.  (Full summary here)

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment prepared a consumer-type guide to the legislation, explaining why the province’s toxics reduction strategy is necessary:

“Toxic substances are part of our everyday modern life but may threaten our health and our environment, unless we all do our part to manage their use and reduce the risks to human health and the environment.  … To help achieve a greener, more sustainable economy, the proposed Toxics Reduction Strategy would focus on reducing the use of toxic chemicals at the front end of industrial processes and in consumer products.”

A Super Big Horrah! to Ontario’s Ministry of Environment for recognizing the protection benefits for workers’ health in their toxics reduction initiative.  They note:

Toxics reduction can lower business costs related to raw materials, waste disposal, worker safety, liabilty and regulatory compliance.”

Very cool.  But don’t take my word for it, the Toxic Use Reduction Institute has dozens of case studies explaining how less hazardous, safer substitute cleaners, solvents and other products save firms money and advanced reduced workers’ risk of harm.

Celeste Monforton, MPH, DrPH is the daughter of immigrants from Ontario Canada: Roger Denis Monforton of Cataraqui Street, Windsor (b.1924) and Theresa Charlotte Dugal of Parent Avenue, Windsor (b.1927).  Celeste’s always been proud of her Canadian heritage, but especially so today reading about Ontario’s plans for toxics reduction.