NGOs urge Canada to complete the assessment of PFAS in one year

NGOs urge Canada to complete the assessment of PFAS in one year

Chemicals in Products

The Canadian Environmental Law Association, HEJSupport, Clean Production Action, and the Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network prepared a joint submission in response to Canada’s Notice Notice of intent to address the broad class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The Notice was published in Canada Gazette dated April 24, 2021.

PFAS is a family of over 4,700 highly persistent and toxic chemicals and necessitates a class-based approach. The Stockholm Convention on POPs is targeting only long-chain PFAS such as PFOA and PFOS. It has taken over 16 years to initiate a review and adoption of these long-chain PFAS for global action. One set of alternatives to those substances—PFHxS, its salts, and PFHxS-related compounds—is recommended for listing in Annex A to the Convention for consideration by the next Conference of the Parties. If only one out of more than 4700 PFAS chemicals is listed under the Stockholm Convention every ten years, we may need nearly a century to regulate all PFAS chemicals. Moreover, the Stockholm convention allows specific exemptions for certain applications which open the door for industry to continue using already restricted chemicals. In addition, the industry is pushing towards the substitution of one PFAS by another non-regulated PFAS while non-fluorinated alternatives are available.

While the government has outlined an intent to release a State of the PFAS Report within two years, the timeline should be shortened and clearly outline the definitive direction that such a report will make to determine PFAS as a class under Section 64 of CEPA (Canadian Environmental Protection Act). The PFAS Report noted in the Notice only indicates that the government will “summarize relevant information on the class of PFAS.” What is needed is a definitive commitment to complete an assessment that not only focuses on the hazardous properties of PFAS as a class, but also the range of industry and product sectors that use PFAS; an assessment of PFAS-free alternative on the market, and recommendations about how consumers, workers, and local communities can have access to information about PFAS use and releases. The proposed approach means that any efforts to decide under section 64 of CEPA for the class of PFAS will take longer than two years. It is not sufficient to simply focus on data collection by expanding the monitoring of PFAS in the environment – the efforts on PFAS must include a roadmap to move to informed substitution and innovation with safer products and chemicals. We urge the government to use the full scope of its tools under CEPA to collect and generate data (including section 71 surveys) to cover these issues (PFAS free alternatives, accessing the information on PFAS use and release). Acknowledging the urgency of ongoing exposure to these ‘forever chemicals’ we urge that the government completes its assessment of PFAS as a class within one year. Models currently exist for the scope of this assessment, for example within the European Commission’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability.

The complete text of the joint NGO submission is available here.

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Written by Olga Speranskaya