Under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), chemicals available in Canada are systematically reviewed for potential risk to human health and the environment.

On May 11, 2021, Canada announced its intent to assess Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This group of over 4,700 man-made chemicals are found as water-proofing additives in many consumer and industrial products including fire-fighting foams, carpets, furniture, clothing, cosmetics, and food packaging.

Some chemicals in the PFAS group have been found to be toxic to humans and the environment. These chemicals were then prohibited through regulations. However, evidence is mounting that the chemicals that are used as a replacements for the prohibited PFAS chemicals are also hazardous. Replacing one hazardous chemical with another that later is determined to be hazardous is known as a “regrettable substitution”.

PFAS chemicals are created in laboratories using one of the strongest known chemical bonds. Although this property makes the resulting product excellent at shedding oil and water, the result is an extremely durable chemical that does not break down in nature. As a result, small exposures to PFAS chemicals can build up in the body, exposing people or animals to increasingly higher doses.

“PFAS chemicals interfere with human and animal

endocrine (hormone) systems”

PFAS chemicals interfere with human and animal endocrine (hormone) systems. Endocrine disruptors mimic or interfere with naturally produced hormones. They can affect the reproductive system (impacting puberty and fertility) the thyroid, brain function, and immunity.

RESILIENT, in collaboration with Environmental Defence, Prevent Cancer Now, and other leading Canadian environmental health experts wrote to government officials at CMP commending their review of toxic impacts of this type of chemical group. The alliance provided a number of recommendations to ensure the assessment applies the precautionary principle, prevents future regrettable substitutions avoids commercial conflicts of interest, considers cumulative effects, and recognizes vulnerable populations. Read the joint comments here.