Canada misses chance to ban toxic plastics chemicals: environment watchdog

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics flexible and harder to break, or as solvents

The federal government missed a crucial opportunity to protect Canadians from harmful chemicals that could interfere with fertility and behaviour, an environmental organization says.

After a review, Environment and Climate Change Canada announced Friday that none of more than a dozen phthalates studied posed a risk to human health, and only one needs further study for possible risk to the environment.

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics flexible and harder to break, or as solvents, and are used in hundreds of commercial products including food containers, children’s toys, detergents and personal hygiene products like makeup and shampoo.

Muhannad Malas, who runs the toxics program for Environmental Defence, said the European Union has concluded at least four phthalates pose a risk to human health and it is mind boggling that Canada did not come to the same conclusion.

He said one of the key differences is that in Europe, the onus has been placed on manufacturers to prove their products are safe but in Canada a product has to be proved unsafe before the government will ban or limit its use.

He said Canada’s law needs to be modernized.

Last June, the House of Commons environment committee made dozens of recommendations to improve the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which governs the use of chemicals.

One of them was to mimic Europe’s rule about proving something is safe before use rather than having to prove something is unsafe in order to ban it.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna had until Friday to respond to that report and she said the government is considering the recommendations and will come up with a specific plan by June 2018.

The Canadian Press

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