Over 500 Canadian scientists and doctors urge the Prime Minister to strengthen the nation’s toxics and pollution law
Scientist sign-on letter calls on the federal government to reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
A letter signed by over 540 scientists and doctors from across the country urges the federal government to update Canada’s main pollution and toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, before Spring 2018. The letter is in response to a recent review of the Act conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that made 87 recommendations to strengthen CEPA.
“Canada has a serious pollution problem that is a threat to both human health and the quality of our environment,” the letter states. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity today to curb pollution, save lives, protect the environment, boost the economy, and improve the quality of life for all Canadians by updating CEPA.”
The letter was signed by many of Canada’s most noted physicians and experts in biology, toxicology, physics, and public health, among other fields. The signatories include 23 Royal Society members and 28 Canada Research Chairs.
“Evidence that links toxic chemicals with the development of chronic disease makes it clear that Canadians urgently need stronger protections from a whole host of harmful pollutants,” said Bruce Lanphear with Simon Fraser University. “Scientists and medical experts from across the country and academic disciplines are urging the federal government to take immediate action to update our cornerstone pollution law so that we can curb exposures to toxic chemicals.”
The letter highlights the growing scientific evidence linking exposures to toxic chemicals to an array of health problems including asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and preterm birth. The letter also calls on the government to adopt 11 key recommendations made by the Committee for strengthening CEPA. These recommendations include:
- Reverse the burden of proof for substances of very high concern, such as known cancer-causing chemicals, to require industry to prove safety before use.
- Improve regulation of toxic substances by tightening timelines, mandating safer alternatives for toxics, requiring assessment of cumulative effects, labelling of toxics in products, and improving public participation.
- Creating national air and water quality standards that are legally binding and enforceable.
- Recognizing Canadians’ right to a healthy environment and mandating stronger protections for vulnerable people and communities.
In a letter sent to the House of Commons committee in October, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna agreed that CEPA is outdated and indicated her intention to respond in more detail by June 2018. Since then, the Minister has stated her commitment to strengthening CEPA but has not offered a clear plan or timeline for amending the law.
“The public health, environmental and economic costs of exposures to harmful pollutants can no longer be ignored,” said Ian Culbert with the Canadian Public Health Association. “The federal government has made clear its commitment to tackle pollution and protect vulnerable communities, and introducing a bill to amend CEPA before next spring is an essential part of meeting that commitment.”
The letter can be found at scientists4cepa.org.
This is a joint release from the Canadian Public Health Association, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment.