Management of Chemicals in Canada

Chemicals are part of our everyday life.

Chemicals are part of our everyday life. Some are naturally found in our environment, and some are manufactured by people to make our world safer or more convenient. Some chemicals pose more of a hazard to us and our natural support system than others. Through the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), it is the job of Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to assess evidence and to decide how to manage those chemicals found to pose a risk. A risk indicates not only that a chemical is hazardous, but that people or nature are exposed to it in a quantity that is unsafe. 

Once a chemical is found to pose a risk, scientists and policy people with the Chemicals Management Plan design a strategy to manage the chemical and the risk it poses. They might decide that it is important to phase out the use or production of the substance because it is too dangerous. They might propose regulations to limit or make the use of a chemical safer. At every step along the way there are Public Comment Periods open to the people of Canada to comment on a draft document about a chemical. These comments, and the CMP Science Committee and Stakeholder Advisory Council help the government make decisions about how to manage a chemical or group of chemicals for the safety of Canadians and our environment. 

Because current risk assessment strategies cannot always keep up with the latest scientific findings, and because the economy plays such a key role in decisions concerning substances in use, it is wise to educate oneself about toxic substances. Using the healthiest products and living the healthiest lifestyle possible supports our (and our children’s!) long-term health. 

Immediate Action is Needed

Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

The main purpose of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is to protect Canadians and our environment through a procedure that decides which substances are toxic and need to be regulated. It is the law behind:

  1. The assessment and management of risks from chemicals, polymers and living organisms (CMP)
  2. Programs related to air and water pollution, hazardous waste, air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions
  3. Ocean disposal and
  4. Environmental emergencies.

CEPA is supposed to be reviewed every five years.  However, it had not been reviewed since 1999/2000. The process of review was begun again in 2016 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The Committee released a report in June 2017 that can be found online. The Government responded, and the review process was interrupted by the Federal election of 2018. The process of review is continuing and Canadians are being consulted to improve the Act.

For more detailed reading, we suggest an internet search of the following:

  • Government of Canada: Chemicals Management Plan
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
  • Government of Canada: CEPA
  • Government of Canada: Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Government of Canada: Government response to review of Canadian Environmental Protection Act