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Article related to: people_and_perspectives
Canadian government takes action on harmful chemicals
The Canadian Government launched its Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) in 2006. It aims to make sure that Canada meets the 2020 sound management of chemicals goal. ECHA Newsletter spoke with Jake Sanderson, Manager of Horizontal Policy and Planning in Environment Canada, to find out how the implementation of the plan is going and what role international collaboration plays in chemicals management.
Canada has now reached the midpoint in the implementation of their Chemicals Management Plan. The plan began with 4 300 priority substances that were identified through the categorisation exercise mandated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999. During the first phase of the programme, from 2006-2011, the risks of 1 064 of these substances were assessed. Included in these were approximately 200 hazardous substances that were identified as high priority by stakeholders (so called 'challenge substances').
"The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is the main building block and the most important legislation that we use for the assessment and management of chemical substances," Mr Sanderson says and continues "our ultimate goal is to protect human health and the wellbeing of Canadians as well as the environment".
A great success
|Mr Sanderson is proud of the Canadian Chemicals Management Plan. Image: HCF.|
"We are now half way through our ambitious chemicals management process on the road to 2020. It has been very exciting and most things seem to be on track," Mr Sanderson says. The key elements of the work have been mandatory data collection and rapid screenings which have helped to de-prioritise substances that are not of harm. "Thanks to the Chemicals Management Plan, we can communicate the message that not all chemicals are harmful and that the government is taking action on the harmful ones. At the same time, we are maintaining market certainty for industry and ensuring public confidence that chemicals are being used and managed safely," Mr Sanderson emphasises.
Information collection is an important element that increases the intelligence and helps in setting priorities for the next phase. Mr Sanderson points out that it is essential to get the current market data for chemicals on the market and to understand how industry is using them. This information can only be obtained by collaborating with industry. "Industry input and engagement during the first phase of the plan was paramount to its success. Investing in research, monitoring and working collaboratively with our international partners are also important areas for the programme to gather information required to support its delivery".
By summer 2014, risk assessments were carried out for around 1 650 substances. Of the 200 high priority challenge substances, 42 have so far been identified as toxic. Around 700 substances remain and are on track to be assessed during the rest of the second phase (up to 2016) and around 1 700 substances for the third round (up to 2020).
At this point in the implementation, Mr Sanderson is feeling proud and positive about the plan. "I think the results speak for themselves. There are always a lot of sceptics when you launch a programme, whether it is in Europe or in Canada, but I think in Canada people are firm believers now".
How does the Canadian system compare with REACH?
Although the Canadian approach differs from REACH, Mr Sanderson believes that we are sharing the same science and have the same ultimate objective. It is the model and the means to get there that are different.
Whereas the starting point in CMP has been the substance prioritisation exercise, in REACH the individual company registration dossier kicks off the process. In Canada, authorities have a central role in collecting the data. "During the original prioritisation exercise, we generated data with QSARs and made a big effort to dig up empirical data and ask for information from industry," Mr Sanderson clarifies.
"You often hear that the burden of proof is on industry in the REACH model and certainly, the balance of responsibility is different. In both instances, industry plays a key role, but in the Canadian context, even though industry provides the data, it is essentially the government authorities that are doing the regulatory assessments," Mr Sanderson explains.
Does international collaboration help?
According to Mr Sanderson, international cooperation is critical. It is important that knowledge and best practice is shared to make sure that we learn from each other. All of this will contribute to the ultimate goal of protecting human health and the environment. "For regulators, it is important to participate in international fora – this way you can see what others are doing. If there is flexibility within your own programme, you can take on board some of the approaches that have proven to be successful in other countries and integrate them into your own national or regional programme," he points out. As an example, he mentions technical approaches and tools developed by the OECD that any member can implement in their own programme.
ECHA and Environment Canada/Health Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2010, with the aim of sharing technical expertise and knowledge. "I think all international cooperation, whether it is bilateral or multilateral, is essential to the evolution and the improvement of chemical management systems. It helps to increase the consistency and ultimately benefits all," Mr Sanderson says.
Did you know?
Interview by Päivi Jokiniemi
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