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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

• 1536

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good afternoon to you all.

I'd like to start again our exploration into the world of pesticides. Today we have with us Angela Rickman and Burkhard Mausberg.

Welcome to the committee. Please make your presentations in whichever sequence you wish, possibly 10 minutes each so as to allow for questions, but not necessarily 10 minutes, if you have more to say. Who would like to go first?

Ms. Angela Rickman (Deputy Director, Sierra Club of Canada): I guess I'll go first.

The Chair: Welcome to the committee again.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Thanks.

Hi, I'm Angela Rickman. I'm deputy director of the Sierra Club of Canada. I'm honoured to be invited here to talk about pesticides.

The Sierra Club of Canada is a national environmental organization that's concerned with the threats to the health and continued existence of our natural systems and all the varieties of life that depend on them.

Through public education programs and collaborative efforts with educators, other non-governmental organizations, industries, and legislators, we strive to raise awareness of anthropogenic degradation of the environment, with the ultimate goal of reversing the effects of unsustainable activities.

The Sierra Club's current campaigns include climate change, biodiversity, forests, biotechnology, trade and the environment, and last but not least, pesticides and toxics. In fact pesticides and toxics was one of the first campaigns we worked on, and it was the first campaign I worked on with the Sierra Club, so it's near and dear to our hearts.

We're among the founders of a group called the Campaign for Pesticide Reduction. I believe our former coordinator presented here as well. CPR is a national network of individuals and groups that are active on pesticide issues, who provide information and advice on campaigns to our members all the way from Corner Brook, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia. We're currently assisting campaigns in 48 communities across Canada that are working towards developing bylaws that either ban or restrict pesticides in their own municipalities.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. CPR was only founded in 1996, and we've largely spread by word of mouth, because we've been quite underfinanced. There hasn't been any funding to coordinate our activities. But as word of our campaign has spread, we've picked up more and more members across the country. So we know it's an issue that's very important to a lot of Canadians in municipalities across Canada.

I'd be happy to entertain any questions on this afterwards, in case any of the members of this committee feel like starting a campaign in their own community or hooking up with a campaign that's already going.

As for our history in pesticides, the Sierra Club was a participant in the 1989 review of pesticide regulation that resulted in the drafting of the blue book in 1990. This was followed in 1994 by the government's purple book, which was the government's proposal for the pest management regulatory system.

• 1540

What's often forgotten, however, is the other document that promised—a promise yet to be fulfilled—to make amendments to the PCPA. That was the red book. We're still waiting for this government to introduce the long-promised amendments contained there.

Among our concerns with the current PCPA are the methods by which tolerable daily intakes, or TDIs, and maximum residue levels, or MRLs, are currently set. Current practice has each chemical evaluated in a vacuum, as though the average human were exposed only to this one chemical. No consideration is given to the effects of exposure to the soup of other chemicals to which each of us is exposed each day. The synergistic effects of some chemicals also may have unexpected and significantly greater health impacts than isolated exposures to each of these chemicals. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When setting TDIs and MRLs, current practice also ignores the special considerations of those most at risk, namely children, pregnant women, and the sick. The levels around them are based on effectively what's deemed safe for the average human. But children aren't mini-adults. They eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air, pound for pound, than adults. Their skin also much more readily absorbs pesticides, but their organs aren't yet developed enough to metabolize or to excrete them at the same rate adults can.

Currently we have products registered that are known to disrupt the endocrine processes in human adult life. These chemicals mimic the natural hormones that turn on and off the various processes associated with growth and reproductive development. With these substances, it's only necessary to have a minute exposure at a certain critical point in the development of a fetus to cause irreparable harm.

Symptoms of exposure to endocrine disruptors include reproductive anomalies, including but not limited to low sperm counts, reduced penis size, and many other effects that I'm sure Dr. Colborn, who is presenting right after us, will elaborate much more on. Other effects include behavioural abnormalities, including increased aggression.

Our knowledge of the endocrine action of some chemicals has only developed over the last 15 years. Our 30-year-old PCPA obviously predates that. The PMRA currently claims to take the endocrine properties of a pesticide into consideration when evaluating a pesticide, but that certainly hasn't meant it will disallow its registration, in spite of the devastating potential of those chemicals.

The tobacco industry claimed for decades that its products were harmless, and it took a long time before legislators acted against the interests of that powerful lobby to protect human health. You can choose not to smoke and not to frequent smoky bars to protect yourself from the ill effects of cigarette smoke. You can't, however, protect yourself from exposure to pesticides, whether your neighbour chooses to spray them on his lawn or your municipality sprays them on its parks, or the cafeteria or the Parliamentary Restaurant sprays them in the kitchen, or they're used at your child's day care or summer camp.

You don't even warrant a warning in most cases. If it's outside, in some places there will be a warning on a lawn, but if it's in a building, you'll never have any idea unless you have a serious reaction to it, if you happen to be chemically sensitive. In effect you may be exposed a hundred times in a day and never even know it.

There are many things wrong with the act. The PCPA's basis for deciding whether or not to approve a pesticide for registration, which is the unacceptable risk of harm, has never even been defined. The public has no right to appeal a registration of a pesticide, though the industry can appeal if a pesticide isn't registered.

Right now 4,789 so-called inert ingredients are legally permitted to be part of a pesticide's formulation without any requirement that they show up on a label. Not only are these ingredients not inert, but in many cases they include other pesticides, such as malathion, benzine, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals. These are kept secret by the PMRA and the manufacturers under the guise of confidential business information.

The cumulative effects of pesticides are not considered when setting limits for exposures either. Some of the tests that are now only required in certain cases should become standard requirements. Developmental neurotoxicity testing and tests for endocrine disruption should be standard requirements, given the implications for children's health.

Furthermore, the PCPA doesn't consider the potential impacts for early exposure during childhood and doesn't examine the lifetime risks for cancer from early exposure.

• 1545

In his report on the management of toxic substances in Canada, Brian Emmett, the environment auditor general, lambasted the government. He detailed a number of areas where the PCPA was deficient. He said:

    Many pesticides used in Canada today were evaluated against previous and less stringent human health and environmental standards. The federal government has not met its long-standing commitment to implement a program to re-evaluate those existing pesticides against the newer standards. Re-evaluations of three groups of pesticides, under way now for close to 20 years, have not been concluded.

I have a lot more in my brief about the auditor general's report, but I'm sure either you've already read it or he's presented it to you.

Currently the Minister of Health is considering amendments to the Pest Control Products Act, and draft legislation is ready. I believe a briefing on some of those amendments has been circulated to you, so you may well be aware of some of them. The amendments improve the PCPA somewhat, but industry is lobbying hard to keep the ministry from introducing changes that might affect the way they do business.

The legislation must recognize the special considerations of children, developing fetuses, the elderly, the sick, and the chemically sensitive. We want public participation in the registration and re-evaluation processes, fast-track approvals for less toxic alternatives to pesticides, and full disclosure of all the ingredients in pesticides, including the frequently toxic formulants.

So if pesticides are so deadly, why aren't we facing mass panic in the streets? Well, death by pesticides isn't merciful and brief. It can be long and in many cases agonizing. The difficulty is in proving a direct causal link between chronic exposure to pesticides as a child, for instance, and other diseases later in life, such as cancer.

A study done by a group of researchers in Windsor earlier this year, which is part of a longer ongoing study, shows that women exposed to pesticides have a greater risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. They recently received a two-year grant from Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board as a result of the data collected over three years, which examined the histories of people with cancer in Windsor and Essex. That information showed that women associated with the agricultural industry have an unusually high rate of premenopausal breast cancer.

The information came from a project that started in 1995 and looked at the occupational histories of 1,000 people with cancer. This occupational health study is more comprehensive than most occupational health research projects, which use death certificates to determine a person's work history. A death certificate would only indicate the last place of work and doesn't necessarily indicate all the places a person has worked in their history, so a researcher may not know a person has worked earlier in their history in a coal mine, or that as a teenager they worked in a greenhouse or on a farm.

In 1998 7,600 women in Ontario alone were diagnosed with breast cancer and 2,000 died—not of the women who were diagnosed, but 2,000 women who had breast cancer died. According to the Ontario Cancer Registry, 208 women in Essex County alone developed breast cancer.

Breast cancer rates in Canada have been steadily climbing over the last 80 years, coinciding with increased exposures to pesticides and other chemicals in our environment, and now we're being exposed to toxic rain. Rain laced with 2,4-D, a common weed killer and formerly part of the makeup, with 2,4,5-T, of Agent Orange, is falling on people, wildlife, gardens, and farms in southern Alberta.

Agriculture Canada says a study in the Lethbridge area last year has revealed extremely high, unacceptable amounts of the herbicide in the rainfall, which implies that the stuff is floating in the air in minute amounts and that we're breathing it as well. Organic farmers are worried that it's going to affect their certification designation.

The herbicide was found in all of 150 samples of rain collected during a period between May 30 and August 17 last year at eight Lethbridge area locations. The highest amounts of herbicide were found at a golf course, where it registered 5.1 parts per billion. The Canadian maximum level for aquatic life for 2,4-D is 4 parts per billion, and the drinking guideline is 100 parts.

Farmers in the Lethbridge area are the biggest users of 2,4-D in Alberta, with more than 20,000 kilograms of the herbicide sold to the area's grain farmers each year.

This report supports a river water quality study that was done last year, which also revealed contamination. These levels are all well above targets, and we all have to be very concerned about it.

Studies by the journal of the American Cancer Society have shown that children in homes where pesticides, particularly 2,4-D, are used have between six and seven times the risk of developing childhood leukemia as children from homes where no pesticides are used. And children are exposed in many other ways.

• 1550

Although the PMRA is claiming they will be significantly improving the way in which pesticides are regulated by harmonizing with U.S. standards, a February report by the Environmental Working Group shows that U.S. children are still routinely exposed to multiple pesticides known and suspected to cause brain and nervous system damage, cancer, disruption of the endocrine and immune systems, and a host of other toxic effects.

Some of their major findings were that 20 million children aged five and under eat an average of eight pesticides a day. Every day, 610,000 children aged one through five eat a dose of neurotoxic organophosphate insecticides that the U.S. government has deemed unsafe. Pesticide concentrations from 1992 through 1996 in seven of eight foods heavily consumed by children were over safe, acceptable limits.

Then I have a whole bunch of data on the pesticide application rates over the last couple of years in the U.S., which show they've grown by about 60 million pounds since 1989. Applications per acre have increased 34%. Unfortunately it's difficult to compare these figures to the reality in Canada, because as Brian Emmett stated, the records aren't kept. Well, it's not that records aren't kept, but there's no sales data available to the public in Canada.

Concerns about pesticide residues in food eaten by children were highlighted a long time ago by a group in the States called the Natural Resources Defense Council, who estimated that 55% of the lifetime cancer risk from exposure to carcinogenic pesticides in food is incurred by age six, and that at least 17% of preschoolers, or 3 million preschoolers, are exposed to organophosphate residues above U.S. standards in fruits and vegetables.

As a result of the work of the NRDC and a number of other groups, notably Dr. Philip Landrigan in the States, the U.S. EPA moved to introduce the Food Quality Protection Act, or FQPA, which added an increased 10 times safety factor for children. But while the current FQPA has the 10-fold safety factor per pesticide, it still doesn't address the problems associated with multiple exposures.

Right now Canada's system for evaluating pesticides isn't even as good as that. We're moving towards the additional 10-fold safety factor for children, but it still isn't enough.

Right now virtually all North Americans have detectable levels of persistent pesticides in their bodies. However, there is very little information on the levels of pesticides in children. It's likely that the levels in children currently are lower than in adults but that they increase with age.

To date the process for setting guidelines and objectives for pesticides hasn't explicitly considered children's unique exposures and risks, but there's now evidence that children's exposures and risks from pesticides are different from and in many cases larger than for adults.

I see that I'm going long, so I'll wrap up.

As I stated before, in the red book the Liberals promised to amend the 30-year-old Pest Control Products Act, and we're still waiting. We need legislation now. We need pressure from this committee on the Ministry of Health or on the Minister of Health, through your work in Parliament, to ensure that the amendments that are there are introduced as soon as possible. They're not perfect, but we can at least start working on them once they're introduced. As it stands, a 30-year-old act is a lot less perfect than any amendments that could possibly be introduced to it.

That legislation of course must recognize the special considerations of children, developing fetuses, the elderly, the sick, and chemically sensitive individuals. We want public participation in the registration and re-evaluation processes; fast-track approvals for less toxic alternatives, which is vital; and full disclosure of all the ingredients in pesticides.

The Canadian government made a commitment at the G-8 summit in Denver in June 1997 and reiterated at the World Health Organization in June of this year to put children's health first, and we'd like to see them do that.

I thank the committee for your interest in this issue and for the chance to bring forward our views on it.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Rickman.

Would you like to proceed, Mr. Mausberg, please?

• 1555

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg (Executive Director, Canadian Environmental Defence Fund): Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Burkhard Mausberg. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund.

First of all, congratulations to you, Mr. Chair, on your reappointment. Congratulations to all of you for being appointed members of this committee. Over the years I have found this committee a particularly useful one to discuss issues on environmental policy matters. So thank you for inviting me.

Before I continue with my brief, I will take this opportunity to distribute a report we released last week on the Innu Nation. You may have seen some of the media coverage on it. I have extra copies here for those members interested in seeing the original document that was in the press.

In choosing pesticides as an area of study, you've chosen a pretty difficult topic. I sometimes compare pesticides to cars. I can't really see how we can get rid of them. They do have frequently some useful applications. The question is, how do we decide what is a useful application, and what chemicals do we actually want to allow to be used?

At the same time, I cannot think of another application where we purposely put poisons into our environment to kill something. Other than in a state of war, I can't think of another application. So it's a challenge both in terms of trying to understand what chemicals to allow and in trying to deal with the fact that really what we're trying to do is kill things in the environment, whether they be herbs, insects, viruses, or whatever.

I'm not particularly an expert on pesticides. What we do at the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund is help Canadians with access to justice. That is, we try to help them use the court system in promoting a cleaner environment and better human health. Over the years we've had a number of cases dealing with Canadians who were trying to use the courts in reducing pesticide use. We learned a few lessons from that, and that's what I was hoping to give you a presentation on. I did prepare a brief for you, which I hope you did receive, in both official languages.

The first issue of access to justice is the access to the information to make decisions by. I think you've heard repeatedly, and I'd like to underscore, that there is very limited access to information when deciding whether or not a particular pesticide should be used in Canada. Also, there's very limited access to participation by those interested and affected in making those decisions. It would seem to me that if something is potentially hazardous and it's being sprayed into my environment, I should have some role in determining whether or not that should proceed. So the access to information and public involvement in decision-making are important.

A particular difficulty in using the courts is the burden of proof. In most of the cases we have tried to assist citizens with across the country, we have had to use common-law principles, which means if you come in front of a court as a plaintiff, you have to show some sort of proof that a particular harm is related to a particular cause. That is very difficult to do under common-law principles. One option may be to statutorily come up with some way the burden of proof is not on the plaintiff but on those actually using the chemicals and pesticides in the environment.

Another problem some of our clients across the country have faced with using the court system to protect the environment is the enormous cost involved in trying to launch a legal challenge. Quite often the people we deal with are citizens who have regular jobs. They do this because they're concerned about what happens in their community. They're often faced with opponents in the courts who have much larger pockets, a much better resource in providing experts to the courts, and often much more resources to hire better lawyers. That's a real obstacle in trying to move some of these cases forward.

Another problem we've had is the issue of standing or even getting in front of the courts on some pesticide issue. In a particular case in Nova Scotia we found our client didn't get standing because the spraying had already occurred. So you have to actually launch a pre-emptive court action before the spraying occurs, before you can actually do something. That makes it very difficult to prove a particular harm.

So the court system is often very difficult to use in trying to protect the environment from pesticide damage and in trying to protect human health.

• 1600

There are some things we can do, and some of my colleagues have presented some of them here before, in particular dealing with the most hazardous substances and trying to ban them outright, in trying to re-evaluate some older pesticides, and also in trying to deal with alternatives to pesticides and promoting those.

From the perspective of access to justice, I would argue that a number of things are really important, and I'd like to leave you with a couple of suggestions.

The involvement of the public in the registration process right up front is going to give them some security that they don't have to use the court system to challenge some of the applications.

The reporting and monitoring of pesticide use may be a very useful function, and I compare it to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, or NPRI, a federal program where polluters are required to report their emissions. Some of them are happening by accident, but we don't have a similar monitoring program or reporting program for chemicals that we purposely put into the environment. It seems to me that some sort of reporting and monitoring system for pesticide use in Canada is quite useful.

What we've found with using the NPRI is that those companies on top of the list, whether nationally or regionally or provincially, don't like being on top of the list. They don't like getting the poor press and so forth, and they're actually motivated to reduce their emissions of toxic chemicals. Well, with a similar inventory for pesticides, we may find a similar effect. But not having a good grasp on the actual data of pesticide use is unfortunate.

We may want to think about creating an intervener fund, for people wanting to have access to the courts to have some resources. I realize this is a very difficult thing to implement. You want to avoid abuse, and a certain administrative cost is involved with any type of intervener fund. But for me, those are technical issues that can be dealt with in the set-up of such a fund. The principle is a useful one. Such a fund could be financed both by the manufacturers of the pesticides and by using some of the fines that are collected.

Overall I wish to leave you with three recommendations for your difficult study on pesticides. The first one is to improve access to information and access to decision-making processes. The second one is to make recommendations for better access to the courts, whether it be through statutory improvements on the standing rules or through an intervener fund. And finally, I would really urge you to recommend some sort of monitoring and reporting system for pesticide use in Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mausberg.

We have now Mr. Casson, Madame Girard-Bujold, Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Reed so far.

Mr. Casson, would you like to start?

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ms. Rickman, your comments about Lethbridge are pretty close to home. That's my riding. I've put forward the name of Bernie Hill, who did the study you're talking about, and he's going to be here.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Good.

Mr. Rick Casson: He's going to appear before the committee to talk about that study and what it's on. So we look forward to that.

One of the parts of what we're looking into is the performance of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. They took over the Pest Control Products Act in 1995. What do you think or how do you feel about what's gone on since that happened? Are we better off or worse off? Are they doing their job? What could they be doing better?

Ms. Angela Rickman: We had pretty high hopes when the responsibility for the Pest Control Products Act was moved out of Agriculture Canada and into Health Canada, thinking we were shifting the focus from promoting agricultural products to protecting health. Largely it was just a change of name. A lot of the staff remained the same, and the culture tended to remain the same.

The way the Pest Control Products Act is written right now, to a large degree, the PMRA's hands are tied when it comes to, for example, giving information to the public on sales figures on pesticides—anything the industry deems confidential business information.

• 1605

Furthermore, they've set up an alternatives division, which in our opinion hasn't really done a great job of promoting sustainable alternatives, or at least toxic alternatives, to pesticides.

The way the current PCPA is written too, no specific mandate is given to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and that should be clarified through legislation.

Mr. Rick Casson: Would that be one of the amendments you'd like to see come forward?

Ms. Angela Rickman: Yes.

Mr. Rick Casson: Mr. Mausberg, one of your recommendations is the alternative substitution principle. You mentioned the fact that it's a juggling act as to what should be used, what shouldn't be used, how much we need to use to keep feeding the world, and that type of thing.

It seems to me if you're using a chemical—and these chemicals are expensive to use—you're using as little as possible to get the job done originally. So when you're looking at alternatives, what do you mean by that? Are you looking at biological methods of control? What do you have in mind when you say that?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Let me preface that again by saying I'm not a particular expert on pesticide use per se, but from the little I do know, there are a couple of options. You can replace toxic ones with less toxic ones. You can look at only using pesticides at a certain time, rather than having a continuous application. There are opportunities maybe to look at biological controls.

I have a 20-month-old daughter. We buy organic food for her all the time. Somehow that food must be produced without the use of pesticides. So there is a market for it, and there is an opportunity to make those kinds of food products. What those particular farmers use, I have no idea. I would assume they use very few chemicals.

Mr. Rick Casson: Does that food cost you more than the...?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Oh, yes. A little glass jar of baby food made by Kraft called Earth's Best is 99¢. But the same Kraft almost twice the size is 69¢.

Mr. Rick Casson: So I guess therein lies the farmer's dilemma. If people were willing to pay the extra money for however they grow that organic food, then possibly everybody would grow it that way. But to grow it cheap is the key.

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: But that's a question of pricing, right? If you were to, hypothetically, put a huge tax on pesticides, just as a policy option, I don't know how well that would fly. Well, I guess I know how well that would fly. It probably wouldn't. But in theory it is possible to do that, to tip the balance so that the organic products would be cheaper.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Or just remove the GST exemption, for example, on pesticides.

Also, one of the reasons organic foods right now cost more is that the distribution networks just aren't there. But as demand increases and it becomes more of the mainstream.... That's the way you push. It's just market mechanisms there.

Mr. Rick Casson: Consumer demand will drive a lot of things.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Yes.

Mr. Rick Casson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you.

[Translation]

Ms. Girard-Bujold, please.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Mausberg, Ms. Rickman, I would like to focus on the recommendations you made in your brief.

In recommendation number 4, you say that there has to be better public access to information. How should we go about doing this? You say that the public does not have enough information and then you go on to say that we have to make it possible for the public to participate in the entire registration and reassessment process. Do you want the public to have any say when it comes to assessing and reassessing products? How do you see this playing out? Would the public be entitled to participate in the decision- making process through a mechanism? Could you explain how this would take place within the regulation or the law?

[English]

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: That's a good question.

There's an expression that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink. In the same way, you can make data available, but you can't force someone to use it.

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At the same time, some of these assessments are very technical and scientific in nature. With some of them there is an enormous debate over particular effects and whether or not they are real or whether or not they are sufficient enough to cause a ban of a substance.

A number of models have been used in other jurisdictions that could be modelled. I'll just point you to the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, where every time the provincial government undertakes a particular activity, it has to post a notice, and then you have 30 days' opportunity to comment on it. The trouble is you can comment, but nobody has to listen, so there's certainly some improvement to be made there.

Regarding your question on what exactly the role should be on decision-making, when the federal government initiates consultations about particular regulations, it holds multi-stakeholder meetings and tries to come by a decision through the consensus method and presents something to the responsible authorities on a consensus basis. Maybe that's a model we can use. For particular pesticide registrations, we could have a multi-stakeholder group looking at this, and unless they agree that a pesticide goes forward, it doesn't. It stays in the box before it can be used.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Berkhardt, I had understood that you wanted experts from the public to sit on the same committee with the people from PMRA so that there would be some counterweight during pesticide assessment. But that's not what you want. You simply want to be consulted on a general basis. You want there to be some general public consultation, but you don't want consultation when it comes to decision-making.

You say that the public is not informed, that it does not have access to information. Other witnesses who appeared before us this week have said the same thing. If all the witnesses are telling us the same thing, we should be providing for some type of structure which meets your expectations. I thought that you had something very specific in mind.

[English]

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: There are a number of ways in which the public can participate in those decisions. At the same time, I also recognize that a minister of the Crown cannot devolve his or her authority to make certain decisions. He or she will at the end of the day still be responsible for the registration of the pesticide.

At the same time, going towards the approvals process, you can have various opportunities of public engagement, of listening to comments. Currently, by virtue of the fact that you do not have access to all health assessment and environmental assessment data, it precludes you from having any sort of input.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Currently there is some access, but it's very limited. With certain pesticides, the PMRA can now issue what's called a PRDD, or a pesticide registration decision document. They'll put up some of the information for the public to have input. I think there are 30 days to give input after it's posted.

The problem is the PRDD doesn't include all of the information that is the background for the registration or decisions that the people at the PMRA are going to make. Industry actually decides whether or not to release the PRDD to the public, and they don't have to do that; there's no legal requirement. But through legislation and through the proposed amendments to the PCPA, the amount of information that would be released to the public is higher. That would give any member of the public who was interested the ability to present evidence counter to a registration decision.

By the same token, I imagine you could say, “Great! This is a terrific poison. Let's register it.” But if people wanted to present evidence against it, it would give them more access. That's part of what we've seen as the proposals.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Mr. Lincoln, please.

• 1615

[English]

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): I'd like to first of all ask Mr. Mausberg about the whole question of onus of proof.

You suggested we should have a reverse onus of proof, with which I would agree 100%, but in practical terms, I think it will be very hard to put into legislation.

As you might know, the legislation is on a risk basis: what's acceptable and what's unacceptable. Of course that's very subjective. What's acceptable to the PMRA and others may not be acceptable to a lot of us.

Just looking at the new potential legislation, where notes are being floated around, it refers to the question of value of a pesticide and what is acceptable. That's going to be defined in the act, in the new amendments to the act. But again, what we can see in the outline doesn't give us—certainly some of us who feel there should be tighter controls—much room for comfort.

If you had to define what is acceptable, short of reverse onus of proof, what would each of you put in there? Considering that the highest risk is with the smallest individual, should you start from the basis that what is acceptable is limited to what is the highest possible risk to the smallest possible individual?

Ms. Angela Rickman: From our perspective, we feel if the weakest species were adequately protected, then we'd all be adequately protected. So when setting maximum residue levels or tolerable daily intakes, the weakest of us have to be taken into consideration, and that's where we should set our levels.

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: I would agree with that. I'm not quite sure I understand your question, though, Mr. Lincoln. Do you mean what is an acceptable level of harm? I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by that.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: The whole basis of the Pest Control Products Act is what is acceptable risk, versus the positive value of the pesticide for control of crops and so forth. So you balance the two and ask what degree of risk is acceptable. Depending on that, you register a certain pesticide, or if it's totally unacceptable, you don't register it. The problem is, there's no definition of what's acceptable or not. Now, in the new act, it's proposed that it would be. But again, all this is very moot.

Some people have suggested that what we should do is define “risk” according to the lowest possible tolerance. In other words, if you do it on the basis of a baby, it will be very different from a male adult. That's what I wanted to get your feeling on.

Optimally we would want to have reverse onus of proof—in other words, the manufacturer would have to prove their product is safe. I don't think it will happen. As much as many of us want it, it's not going to happen in legislation.

What I want to know is, how far can we go in your recommendation so that when this thing is defined in the act, we can narrow it down to the point where it's almost onus of proof?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: That's a difficult question, in part because the product is designed to kill. So the product you're dealing with is very much, by nature, a risky product. It may not intentionally want to harm something else, but it is intentionally produced to kill a weed or to kill an insect.

From a public health perspective, we would want to have the minimum acceptable risk to an unborn child. That is the most susceptible to damage.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Would you agree with that, Ms. Rickman?

Ms. Angela Rickman: In the case of endocrine disruptors, yes.

You're talking about value. When evaluating risk, we have to take into consideration other things, such as what's the value of a whole generation of people with one IQ point less or much more aggression or an inability to reproduce? When we take into evaluation the costs of not registering a pesticide to farmers, we also have to take into account the costs of registering that same pesticide for society 20 years down the road, when its effects show up.

• 1620

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Can I follow up on that, give it one more try?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: What if we were to define what is acceptable and unacceptable on the basis of the most vulnerable in society? That's what I'm trying to explain.

Ms. Angela Rickman: That's a very good starting point.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Wouldn't that be a minimum start?

Ms. Angela Rickman: I think so. If we could get that right now, I'd be happy.

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Going back to the—

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.

We have to move to the next, Mr. Reed, followed by Mr. Mancini.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

Did you wish to finish a sentence?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Well, the issue of values was raised. I would ask myself, what is the minimum acceptable risk for what application? Certain pesticide applications in my view are not valuable. Whether or not there are dandelions in the park across the street, I don't see a need for spraying pesticides for that kind of use. So for those kinds of applications, I would probably say any type of risk is unacceptable, because the actual use for it really doesn't make any sense.

Mr. Julian Reed: Ms. Rickman, you mentioned working towards banning the application of pesticides in municipalities. I take it you are referring to urban municipalities and not rural municipalities.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Right, and the campaign we're working on currently and the campaigns that are running are generally about cosmetic cases of pesticide use, such as Mr. Mausberg's example of use for eradicating dandelions, where no crop is being protected.

Mr. Julian Reed: Okay, so in other words, if I am an urban gardener, I'm okay.

Ms. Angela Rickman: If you're not using pesticides, you are.

Mr. Julian Reed: No, no, but what if I'm applying pesticides the same way agriculture applies pesticides?

Ms. Angela Rickman: You mean if you have a garden in your backyard and you're spraying pesticides on it?

Mr. Julian Reed: Yes.

Ms. Angela Rickman: No.

Mr. Julian Reed: Okay.

I'd like to put a little focus on the whole concept of pesticides and point out that we've come through an evolution over the past 50 years in the use of pesticides that is fair to acknowledge or recognize.

In the 1940s and 1950s, I was spraying heavy metals, arsenicals, on my apples, and of course then the miracle saviour came along, mercury, in about 1960. Then we moved into the chlorines and other types of pesticides, which would appear to be less toxic. It would seem it's not a good idea to spray arsenic and leave a lot of residue in your apple orchard.

The point is we have now evolved to the point where there are some pesticides on the market that have their roots in plant growth itself, in nature. I point out rotenone, pyrethrins, the bacterial Bt, and so on. So it's part of an evolution. I would submit to you maybe we're doing better now than we were 40 years ago.

At the end of the Second World War—and I'm old enough to remember this; you are not—the municipality where I lived sprayed 2,4,5-T, Brushkill, up and down all of the side roads. They didn't stop until some of the tomato growers got mad at them because of the drift.

So in terms of evolution, we have made progress, and I would submit to you that what we're looking to do is add to that progress and continue to do it. We even now have got to the point where we're doing genetic engineering on crops to reduce or eliminate the need for external pesticides. So that's another part, a newer part, of the picture.

• 1625

Each one of these elicits its own set of fears and has its own level of ignorance on the part of the public, partly because it's new and partly because all the answers are not known at this time. So—

The Chair: Would you like to put your question, Mr. Reed?

Mr. Julian Reed: Where I'm going is more of a statement, perhaps, than a question, Mr. Chairman, and I'm sorry about that. But it really begs the question, should we simply ban all pesticides? Is that the objective? I see a sign at the back of the room that says, “No pesticides”. Is that what we want to do? Is that your objective, to ban all pesticides and stop progress?

Ms. Angela Rickman: Okay, let me address some of the things you said.

You said 40 years ago you were spraying arsenicals and mercury and things all over, and I bet you then everyone was telling you it was safe and it was a good idea. Look what we've learned in 40 years. Who knows what we'll know 40 years from now?

Sure, things may be less toxic in some ways, but the developing evidence around endocrine disruptors is really scary. It's awful when you think we could have a whole generation of children who are unable to reproduce.

Lots of things have been introduced and we've been told they're safe and great. We had lead in gasoline. We had all kinds of things. We have to put the precautionary principle in place.

As for biotechnology reducing our use of pesticides, sorry; it's not reducing our use of pesticides. One of the biggest applications of biotechnology right now is in producing Roundup-ready crops, which are designed to resist a specific pesticide application. So they're still using pesticides. They're not not using pesticides.

Mr. Julian Reed: I remind you there's a new variety of potato out that is—

Ms. Angela Rickman: Yes, there are Bt potatoes.

Mr. Julian Reed: —resistant to the Colorado potato beetle.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Sure.

Mr. Julian Reed: It's a genetically engineered plant.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Right, and it's grown in enormous fields, so all of those Colorado potato beetles that are resistant to the Bt—and there are beetles that will not be killed by it—now have a great big place where they can easily find a mate and produce all kinds of new Colorado beetles that are—

Mr. Julian Reed: Well, I'll tell you they're rampant in my garden every year.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Well, maybe not in your garden.

I'm not going to get into an argument with you around biotechnology. I just personally don't think that's the answer.

I brought a couple of things with me. I'm the one who brought the signs that say, “No pesticides”. I love my family and the environment more than my lawn.

I've also brought a copy of a report we did with Campaign for Pesticide Reduction. It's a literature review on the exposures and risks of pesticides for children. There are some copies at the back if people want to have a look at those.

And we have a postcard we've been circulating across Canada that says, “You wouldn't give them an adult dose of aspirin, so why is an adult dose of pesticides okay?” And this is a picture of my son. We're circulating these as well, and they outline the various concerns we have with the current Pest Control Products Act.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Mancini, please.

Mr. Peter Mancini (Sydney—Victoria, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to pick up just for a moment on a statement made by Mr. Reed.

Mr. Reed is saying we're on a progressive evolutionary road. I'm not sure I would agree with that. Wouldn't I be correct in suggesting that in reality, it's hard to measure if progress is being made, because we don't have data from when we used that kind of arsenic? In fact perhaps the best data we have is for the oldest type of farming, which would be organic. That's, in reality, where we are.

I have a couple of questions. You stated that the PMRA is saying they will harmonize some procedures with the United States. Is that the best way for us to go, or are there other nations we might look at harmonizing with in a better way, who have better standards? Are there other nations we can take a lead from on this?

Ms. Angela Rickman: There are other nations, places such as Sweden. Some of the European countries are far advanced, compared to the U.S. and to us, on their pesticide regulation and the way they monitor pesticides.

• 1630

The primary driving force behind harmonizing with the U.S. is trade, so that's where they've looked first. I would argue that we could probably open up trade somewhere else, but not being a trade expert, I'm not going to.... I'm just giving you the reason we're going with the U.S.

In some ways the U.S. standards are higher; in some ways they're lower. But I fear by harmonizing, we risk lowering all of our standards.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Is there more access to information in the U.S. as to what is being used and what the makeup of the pesticides is?

Ms. Angela Rickman: Yes, primarily to test data. We can get test data on products that are registered in Canada if they're registered in the States as well. Also, in a couple of the states, notably Oregon, various groups have taken the EPA to court, arguing that they have a right to know what's in pesticides. They've won, but they've won on a pesticide-by-pesticide basis. So for each individual pesticide or for each pesticide they want to know the makeup of, they have to sue, pesticide by pesticide.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I just have one more question for you and then I'll go to your colleague. This goes back to the first question that was asked about the cost of food production and consumer choice and why the organic food products are more expensive. In fact what we're talking about here is economies of scale, aren't we? The agricultural industry that uses huge amounts of pesticides also has a huge corner on the market, whereas cooperatives of organic farmers haven't been able to penetrate that market in any real way.

I have a question for your colleague.

You talked about the cost of court challenges. This is something that, as a legal aid lawyer.... You talked about the Margaree challenge. I was actually a legal aid lawyer who was approached by that group to represent them and couldn't, because it wasn't in the mandate. I have a home in Margaree. I know most of those folks.

We had at one time a court challenges program to deal with challenging legislation when there was an infringement on rights. Should we look at something like that? Is that the road we should go down, to say there is funding available for groups that want to challenge the government on health concerns related to environmental concerns? Should we broaden the scope of what was the court challenges program?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: That's an option. I would use it not just to challenge the government, but also possibly to challenge some of the applicators and manufacturers. Absolutely.

The Chair: Mr. Mancini, this will be your last question. And perhaps you'll want to address the chair when you address your questions.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Okay. I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Go ahead.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Second, in looking at that, there are legal aid programs across the country that have always been under review by provincial governments in terms of what their mandate is. Might there be an opportunity to determine whether or not those programs could be enlarged to handle the kinds of cases that have been discussed?

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Yes, possibly. In Ontario, the legal aid clinic on this sort of thing is the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and I know for a fact they do have frequently pesticide cases accessible to them or pesticide clients coming to them. The only drawback of legal aid at times, at least as I understand it in Ontario, is that the cutoff for when you qualify is extremely low. One could argue that it is too low for certain people to come and make use of that.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mancini.

I have one brief question of you, Ms. Rickman, and then we'll invite our next witness to the table.

We have this rather peculiar situation with the GST whereby we have exempted pesticides but we have not exempted books. I was wondering whether you, as an organization, have ever made representations to the Minister of Finance on the exemption of pesticides from GST, and if so, when?

Ms. Angela Rickman: No, we haven't, actually. In a former life, I made presentations on the exemption of books, but not on pesticides.

The Chair: Do you plan to make representations on this subject?

Ms. Angela Rickman: It's certainly something we'll look at doing.

The Chair: Thank you.

We are very fortunate to have in this room the author of a well-known book, Our Stolen Future. Our next witness today is Dr. Theo Colborn. Would she mind joining us at the table?

• 1635

You can stay at the table, the three of you, if you like.

Dr. Colborn is not new to Ottawa. She has many friends and admirers. She is a senior fellow with the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S.

We're glad to have you amongst us. We welcome you, and we would like to invite you to make a statement, possibly within 10 minutes.

Dr. Theo Colborn (Senior Fellow, World Wildlife Fund (United States)): I want to thank you very much for inviting me here today. It's like coming back home.

First of all I want to congratulate the Canadian government for requiring identification of and research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Now I urge you to take the next step and develop the legislation to deal with the regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

In so doing, because of the nature of endocrine disruption, unlike other health end points that are discrete and more easily quantified, it is imperative that you employ the precautionary principle and shift the burden of proof of safety to the producers of synthetic chemicals before they are introduced into industrial and agricultural products.

Let me read you the opening paragraph of a consensus statement released in 1999 by an expert group of scientists who met to discuss the health effects of contemporary-use pesticides:

    We are certain that:

    Exposure to contemporary-use pesticides is greater than most people realize. Many populations of wildlife and humans are exposed. Exposure often occurs without the exposed individual's knowledge. A general lack of understanding by the public about pesticides and pesticide approval procedures has led to a false sense of security or to fear about the use of pesticides, both of which preclude rational analysis of the problem. Many contemporary-use pesticides adversely affect the reproductive, nervous, immune, endocrine, and metabolic systems.

Approximately 60% of the poundage of contemporary-use pesticides—these would be agricultural pesticides—used in the United States, which compares almost identically with the list of pesticides used in Canada, are known endocrine disruptors or reproductive toxicants. The evidence for these statistics comes from peer-reviewed scientific literature and government reports. The list is continuing to expand as new research is published.

For example, an entirely new suite of abnormal health end points never sought by toxicologists until five years ago has now been ascribed to some commonly used pesticides. The male pups of rats or mice fed these pesticides developed unusual urogenital and reproductive systems, expressed as abnormal external genitalia and reduced fertility. Traditional testing of these same chemicals in fully developed adult animals did not detect these devastating anti-androgen effects that contribute to demasculinization. A widely used insecticide in household products, pet care products, and agricultural formulations, when fed to pregnant animals, acted both as an estrogen—the female hormone—and as an anti-androgen, both feminizing and demasculinizing the male pups.

What has been considered a thorough examination of endocrine effects in pesticide-testing programs in reality falls far short of detecting these newly revealed developmental problems. Keep in mind that there are no standardized or validated screens and assays available today to test chemicals for their effects on the developing embryo. Therefore neither governments nor industries can say products are not endocrine disruptors.

It is important to look at the results of two independent studies of healthy mothers and infants whose mothers consumed fish from both Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan. The offspring of the women with the highest body burdens of PCBs and other contaminants, including organochlorine pesticides, revealed significant impacts on intelligence and behaviour. The levels of the PCBs in the mothers in these studies are not unlike those found in women living in southern Canada and the United States, and are much lower than the levels reported in Inuit mothers. These impediments to the children's ability to succeed were introduced while they were still in the womb and bear testimony to the sensitivity of the developing embryo.

• 1640

I would like to emphasize what Clifford Lincoln said earlier. Who are the most sensitive individuals? They're not our children. It's the embryo, from the moment the sperm enters the egg until that individual is born—266 days in the womb.

The evidence is accumulating that chronic exposure to low concentrations of synthetic chemicals, not singly but in mixtures, has insidious but extremely important effects on growth, reproduction, and development of all vital systems, and in some species it has affected their survival. Environmentally relevant exposures such as this among humans may not shorten lifespan but in diverse ways can undermine human potential and quality of life, shifting an individual from one who could contribute to society to one who becomes dependent on society. Economists must begin to include these social costs in their risk-benefit analyses. You were talking about risk a minute ago. This must not be overlooked any more.

Canadian scientists have pioneered a great deal of the research that led to the development of the endocrine disruptor hypothesis. Their continued research has proven that indeed endocrine disruption is real; it is now more than just a hypothesis. Your Canadian Wildlife Service has demonstrated in a number of instances that endocrine disruption in wild species has led to attrition within animal populations. It is through the CWS's seminal work that the issue of biologically active compounds in the environment has moved us to the level where agencies worldwide are now addressing the issue in human populations.

I see an important role for Canada in endocrine disruption research in the coming decade, because of the unique position it has established for itself in the field. I was both pleased and honoured to be invited to sit on the Science Management Committee of your Toxic Substances Research Initiative, the TSRI. The TSRI reflects the Canadian government's interest and concern in this new discipline that is changing the way we do science and perceive risk.

Canada can play an important role in the international effort to reduce the risk of exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals by continuing to support long-term research initiatives, which as far as I know are not carried on anywhere else in the world. You have been doing long-term research in a number of perspectives.

Canada should provide the facilities and capacity within the CWS to continue to do cutting-edge science by marrying field research with laboratory research, and most important, by opening doors to and nurturing young scientists coming into the field of environmental protection. Your young scientists are coming down to the States, because they can't move in and work within your services, your institutions in Canada.

Canada has led in many ways on the science and policy in this newly emerging approach to protect wildlife and human health. Canada can continue to lead the way by demonstrating the resolve, through specific regulatory action, to protect future generations from the risks of exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides, in this case, since you're looking at the pesticide issue.

I want to thank the committee for affording me the time to present this to you today. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Casson, would you like to start?

Mr. Rick Casson: Thank you for your presentation and your book. I was given it here a week or so ago, and I haven't been able to get into it, but I will.

I appreciate that you recognize the part of the CEPA that addresses research into this aspect. Certainly more knowledge on this will be helpful. But you make the statement in your brief:

    Keep in mind that there are no standardized or validated screens and assays available today to test chemicals for their effects on the developing embryo. Therefore, neither governments nor industries can say that products are not endocrine disruptors.

Is that not somewhat confusing? If governments or industries can't say they're not endocrine disruptors, what are we using to say they are? Can't we use the same science to evaluate them on both sides?

• 1645

Dr. Theo Colborn: The work that's been done has been done in various laboratories around the world, in regulatory agency laboratories and in academic laboratories. But everyone has used a different test. The only reason we know now that certain chemicals behave the way they do is not that they were done in one laboratory but they were done in two laboratories. But the designs used were entirely different.

In the United States, unless you can run a chemical through a specific, designed protocol, the government feels it cannot take action on the chemical. So right now we are at the stage where we cannot run chemicals through any kinds of assays and screens to say, they are endocrine disruptors, and we want to do something about it, or just that they're affecting the developing embryo.

This applies to a whole new science looking at what happens during development that we never considered before. I would love to see the name “endocrine disruptor” go away and just let's say, “Let's protect the embryo.” There are neurotransmitters involved here, and there are a lot of chemicals, such as prostaglandins, about which people will argue whether they are hormones or not. They are. But we know so little about our system. So we need these screens and assays. Industry needs these.

I'm working with industry now, because they want to be able to say to the public, “The product I'm selling you—the product I'm putting in your home, the clothing you're putting on your child, the toys they're playing with, the food you're eating that I'm selling to you—is safe. It's not going to affect your child before he or she reaches puberty; it's not going to affect the pregnant mother in the home.” They want this. And there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there now, thank goodness, making change already.

What's happening, again, is called harmonization around the world. I know right now there's an agreement between the OECD, the United States, and Japan to try to come up with a set of very basic screens and assays just for a quick run-through of chemicals, so that we can run through the 87,000 in the United States, the 70,000 generally, and mainly the 15,000 chemicals that are being used in very high volume and widely dispersed into the environment and into our homes.

We need something to test those immediately, to begin to see if they possibly bond to, say, the estrogen receptor, the female hormone. Do they interfere with the male hormone? Do they interfere with thyroid?

If we could do that within the next five years, we will have made light-year jumps in what we can do. Then we can begin to classify chemicals and look at them separately.

Mr. Rick Casson: What role, then, can the Pest Management Regulatory Agency play in the development of these tests and the standardization? Is there a role Canada can step forward in? Or what body of government needs to do that?

Dr. Theo Colborn: Just looking at what is needed out there, probably some of the most elegant work on the thyroid is coming out of Canada. You should consider helping some of these people who have been working on the thyroid, because no one knows of anything that binds to the thyroid receptor yet. We know very little about this. It's been ignored. It's not sexy. So it's one of those deals.

Canada can also come up with our field bio-markers. We have to worry about those systems that actually provide us our food. We have to think about protein production, plant production. We have to be very careful about what we're putting out there as herbicides that might be affecting other very important primary producers that we need our food for. What are these things doing? That work can be done in Canada.

You have done a tremendous amount of work in the field. We know a lot about wildlife effects from the Canadian research. I see that as a role for Canada. I really do.

You don't have a big institution like our National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, our National Toxicology Program, or our EPA laboratories. What you have done over the years—and I think it's very wise—is you have taken some aspect that is not being studied in the United States and worked on it up here. We need that kind of cooperation, where you help fill in the gaps. You do something up here, we do something down in the States. We need more cross-border communication.

Mr. Rick Casson: I would suggest the results of some of the things you've pointed out are not very sexy either.

Dr. Theo Colborn: No, they're not.

Mr. Rick Casson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Casson.

Madame Girard-Bujold.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I'd like to congratulate you on your brief, which has enabled us to gain some insight into what is occurring, or what has already occurred, and what should not happen.

• 1650

According to your brief, 60% of the pesticides used today in both the United States and Canada are endocrine disrupters or estrogen simulators.

Some things have not been done in the past. Some things have occurred in other countries. Studies have been undertaken elsewhere. Here in Canada, we have also undertaken studies. However, you are telling us all today that there is some urgency and that the Canadian government is going to have to move swiftly.

I would like you to tell us how we should be taking prompt action. Everything that concerns children, women, fertility and human nature is of great interest to me. You have talked to us about the issue, and I would like you to tell us what we could do, tomorrow morning, to change things so that we will finally be able to meet your expectations and those of the general population. Thank you.

[English]

Dr. Theo Colborn: That's a very good question. I get it everywhere I go.

As for pesticide use in Canada right now, there are some contempory-use pesticides in use about which there is enough evidence—it has not come out of the regulatory laboratories, but it has come out of academic laboratories—that these chemicals definitely do interfere with the endocrine system.

In most instances—well, two that I know of, and I'd rather not name the products—they are being considered for phase-out in the United States and I think in Canada as well. One has chlorine in it; one does not. One works very indirectly. It never would have been caught if we had just used a screen, because it doesn't bind to the estrogen receptor, but it works on the brain and it works through an enzyme system that causes conversion of testosterone to estrogen. It's very complex.

Over the years, a lot of new tests are going to be developed, but those chemicals out there now about which there is enough evidence should be considered for phasing out. I don't say turn them off tomorrow. Work in new products, but in the process of working in new products, this is where we need the screens and assays, because we do not want to, as Mr. Reed said earlier, shift to something we know nothing about.

That is one of my big concerns right now, because in phasing out one of these products I'm talking about, which is a herbicide, we are shifting to other chemicals now that are far more potent. When we release them, at maybe 10 or 15 grams to an acre, they have to be either aerially applied or ground-blasted, and then they're out there in such low concentrations that we can't even measure them once they're released into the environment. Yet, being an ex-pharmacist, I know the chemical base from which they came. These chemicals interfere with insulin, with carbohydrate metabolism, and with thyroid. And this now is a chemical that's being used widely in the United States. I haven't been able to get any figures on it for Canada, but if it's being sold in the United States, I would venture to say it's being sold up here.

I'm very concerned about these things. That's why we need these screens and assays. We need them fast. I'm afraid governments will not work fast enough.

• 1655

What I'm counting on is that the companies producing products that are coming into our homes are designing their own assays. They're working hard. We have a perfect example in the United States. Baxter, which makes hospital equipment—intravenous bags, tubing, needles and syringes, and that sort of thing—probably the largest manufacturer in the world, were approached by physicians who work in hospitals. They formed a group called Physicians for Social Responsibility, and then they formed a group called Health Care Without Harm.

Physicians around the country said to the hospitals, “Don't buy any more of that plastic material we're using in the hospitals, because when we throw it away, we burn it, we produce PVCs, and at the same time we know that phthalate, a particular plastic compound, is slipping out of this material into the blood of whoever is exposed to it. These are not safe chemicals.”

Well, Baxter announced last spring that within a year, they're switching to an entirely new plastic, and I am sure they have worked very hard to find a safer plastic. So there will be no PVCs burning in our hospital incinerators.

Industry will do it. General Motors made an announcement in the United States about a month ago that they're not going to produce any more automobiles with PVC in them in a year or two. They can phase out those products. They do not want this in their products.

So I think the American public, the Canadian public, and the consumer worldwide are going to drive a lot of this effort on the part of industry to move. But if industry thinks government is not going to be right behind them telling them to do something, I don't think they'll do as much as they would if they knew the laws were coming eventually.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold.

[English]

We have Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt, Mr. Mancini, and Mr. Reed.

By the way, Dr. Colborn, feel free to mention names of products if you wish to do so, because you're protected by parliamentary immunity in this committee.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Only in this committee?

The Chair: In every committee.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Dr. Colborn, when you launched your book, Our Stolen Future, some three years ago, like all trailblazing studies, it was controversial. A lot of critics decried what you said. It took a lot of courage. It started a huge movement and discussion here and everywhere.

In your book you described the experiments on animals, on rats and so forth, and you did admit yourself that it would be very hard to forecast the impacts on human beings, because it was still to be proven one way or another.

Since you wrote your book, a lot of critics have been questioning you and others who believe what you believe. Do you have any doubts at all, or are you more than ever convinced that what you said is happening and is happening even more than you said then?

Dr. Theo Colborn: The scientific evidence is coming out relative to our children's intelligence and behaviour and our children's ability to socially integrate. That information and the research that has come out since then has just completely made me feel we let our children down in our book. We knew what was coming. We knew it was there, but the statistics hadn't been applied. The researchers kept telling us, “Please don't stop. You have to write this.”

We now have the evidence in the work that's coming out of the Jacobson study's latest findings, and also in the work that's coming out of the Lake Ontario fish eaters, which I mentioned just quickly here. A new study, just released, shows a relationship between a child's ability to habituate.... In other words, can you calm this kid down? That's basically what it means. Their habituation scores are so low. I wish I had brought my slide presentation to show you, but the study actually showed that as the habituation scores went down, the highly chlorinated PCBs in the mothers went up.

• 1700

Our big concern of course is that there are other chemicals in these mothers, as well as the PCBs, and it could be other chemicals in the mothers. We can never specifically say PCBs did this, but at the same time, the workers at EPA fed PCBs to pregnant rats in the laboratory, and their offspring were born with difficulty hearing low- and intermediate-frequency sounds and had loss of motor coordination. These animals were a little bit out of control.

The interesting thing is they were able to demonstrate that this was through a thyroid effect. As the PCB dose increased, the thyroid production in these animals went down. They have definitely, clearly shown this is through a thyroid mechanism. People up until now have denied that this learning problem was an endocrine problem, but the thyroid is possibly the master hormone, when you figure it has to be there all the time. It controls estrogen production. It's amazing what it does. So that evidence needs to be reinforced.

Work has come out on anti-androgens, as they're looking at and testing these other chemicals on the market—the fungicides that are anti-androgens, the plastics that are anti-androgens. We're just startled. We're amazed at what we're finding.

There's an argument that there's been no replication of the very-low-dose work done with the PCBs, where the male rats were born with enlarged prostates. That study has been replicated. You'll be reading about it very shortly, within a month. It's going to be presented in Kyoto in Japan, where they're having a big endocrine disruptor meeting. And it has been replicated with far more animals. They have found more health end points than they ever expected. This particular chemical seems to affect all organ systems, now that we know what to look for, but we didn't know before.

These are the kinds of things that reinforce me and make me continue sticking my neck out and coming to Canada and talking to you today. You need to pay attention to what's coming out. My concern is that the people who are doing this kind of research are losing their research dollars. They're diminishing, as they have in Canada. This is not unusual. Budgets are being cut. It's easier to cut off research than anything else, and we have a serious budget-cut problem on research in the United States. You do in Canada. That's why I'm here as a proponent for the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Pratt, followed by Mr. Mancini.

Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Dr. Colborn, thank you for being here today. It was good to hear your comments.

I would like to ask you about a position I understand the World Wildlife Fund has taken. It doesn't relate to Canada specifically, so I'm going a little bit far afield here, but it's the position with respect to malarial spraying in the Third World.

First of all, if I have the wrong organization, I apologize, and my question will end here. But is it the position of the World Wildlife Fund that you're opposed to anti-malarial spraying in the Third World?

Dr. Theo Colborn: I wish I had the book with me. I work with the man who worked on that out of our office.

No, that is not.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Our wish is to find alternatives. We had hoped to possibly set a deadline on when malaria spraying should be phased out and realized it was totally impossible. But it always helps if you have a goal, and we were searching for a goal.

But that is not their position, believe me. We have an excellent production right now, citing alternatives and other ways.

As far as I'm concerned, solving the malaria problem and phasing out the organochlorines we have used for malaria, cholera, dengue fever—basically insect vector control—is another issue that has to be addressed at the same time as we're designing these screens and assays for chemicals, because as we look for alternatives, we need these screens and assays to make sure what we shift to isn't worse.

So no, don't worry; that's not our position.

Mr. David Pratt: Perhaps your organization may have gotten a bum wrap in the media then, because I thought I read that.

Dr. Theo Colborn: We did. You know what? The only good thing about that hit is it's given us a lot of time to keep getting back at the press. It's kept the issue alive, so POPs is still alive. We had to look at it from that perspective. It is keeping the issue of POPs alive, which is very important. We have to work on that.

• 1705

Mr. David Pratt: Okay, thank you.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Julia may want to comment.

Ms. Julia Langer (Director, Toxicology Program, World Wildlife Fund): Yes, just very briefly.

I am one of the team of people that works on the DDT issue. Our position is that DDT should be phased out, but certainly not at the expense of human lives. We have documented alternatives and have set a nominal target. If it can't be reached, it can't be reached, but seriously, we do need to phase out DDT eventually through the POPs treaty process.

It's a dilemma. We do not want to create one problem by solving another. We want to solve them both.

Dr. Theo Colborn: I'll be very frank with you. We're very concerned about the synthetic pyrethroids, which are considered one of the alternatives. There could be real problems with them as well. Again, that's low-dose. That is really low-dose, and once it's out there, you probably won't be able to detect it in the environment. So that's why we need these screens and assays.

That's a good question though. I'm glad you brought it up, because it got POPs back on the table.

Voices: Oh, oh!

Mr. David Pratt: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Pratt.

Mr. Mancini, followed by Mr. Reed, Madame Torsney, and Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Doctor.

Doctor, I have to say even some of your good news causes me great concern—and I say this in a parochial manner—when you talk about Baxter and the producers of goods used in hospitals.

I say that because before I was an MP, I was fighting a decision of my city council to take biomedical waste from the mainland of Nova Scotia, because they didn't want to burn it in the south end of Halifax, and burn it in Cape Breton. There was some question of whether those products were laced with PCBs. Now when I hear that the manufacturer of those goods has determined they are, you can understand my frustration.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Yes. May I make a statement here, just one thing?

Mr. Peter Mancini: Please.

Dr. Theo Colborn: When they announced that they were shifting, they did not admit there was anything wrong with the older product.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I bet they didn't.

Dr. Theo Colborn: They just said they have something new they're going to switch to now, a better product. But they never admitted it.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Can you tell me—and this would be outside your area of expertise, so I ask you to bear with me—is that new product now being produced and available in Canada, or are we still using the old products?

Dr. Theo Colborn: I expect Baxter is used in your hospitals. It's being sold up here. The same companies provide your hospital equipment as would in the States. Does anyone know for sure?

Mr. Peter Mancini: Yes, I know.

Let me ask you this about your statement. You quoted the consensus statement released in 1999, talking about the effect on the reproductive, nervous, immune, endocrine, and metabolic systems. Are there any studies, to your knowledge, dealing with the endocrine disruptors and the costs to the health system, in terms of things such as perhaps multiple sclerosis or endometriosis? Are there no correlative costs?

Dr. Theo Colborn: No. I've been trying to get Herman Daly to work with me—the two of us are so busy; it's so hard—to estimate what it would cost for one IQ point difference in a year class of children born in the United States. Just from some rough work that Schwartz has done at Harvard, it's about $7 billion a year lost in lifetime earnings for every IQ point drop. That's the year class in the United States. That's a lot more children than you would have in Canada, but percentage-wise, this is a big figure.

I met a man on the plane today who described his son. This child, when he was born, had problems. They just paid $400,000 for their boy to be in Johns Hopkins Hospital for seven months, trying to repair some of the damage that happened to that boy, which was definitely related to prenatal experience. These are the kinds of things we want to avoid. His description just sent chills up and down my spine, because it sounded so similar to what we are talking about and what's coming out of the laboratories and the evidence that's there.

• 1710

The trouble is, how are you ever going to make a link between exposure and the effect? That's why we ask you to consider taking precaution. I do think it's important to educate the public. I don't think governments should sit on information they have because they're afraid it will cause a panic. I have never seen any of these things cause a panic, even in countries where they have addressed the breast milk problem.

People want to know. They can then make their own decisions about what they're going to do, and they can also take precautions so that they don't create the problem later.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mancini.

Mr. Reed, please.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

Dr. Colborn, do you consider endocrine disruption the most serious issue in terms of the kinds of pesticides we're using at the present time?

Dr. Theo Colborn: I do, because we've looked at pesticides very carefully to make sure they're not carcinogens. I will never argue that DDT is a carcinogen. I will never say DDT caused breast cancer. Read my book. There is no evidence. We don't have it. It's not there.

But we sure missed what DDE is. It was only five or six years ago when they found out, they thought, that DDT feminized wild birds. Remember, the male birds developed like female birds. They thought that was an estrogen effect. That's not. It's a mild estrogen. It was the anti-androgen effect in DDE that made them begin to realize they'd better start looking at other chemicals, but 58 years after that product came on the market.

The trouble is, we're a long-lived species, so we can't see it. But where animals were exposed to these things at concentrations where they could be affected, they were affected, and they still are. The problems around the Great Lakes haven't gone away yet. We're still having problems. The bald eagles are not reproducing well there at all. They've stopped trying to hatch them around Lake Erie, because it just doesn't work. We have not solved our problems.

I'm not using that as an example of what pesticides are doing, but it's an example of what can happen to something that interferes with development. We have not designed our toxicology to deal with development. We haven't designed our legislation or the laws to deal with this kind of effect.

You can't set standards for these kinds of chemicals. You have to remember that. We're going to waste our time if we try to, because there's no threshold.

Mr. Julian Reed: Do you have any comment on the 40% of pesticides used that appear not to be endocrine disruptors? Have you done work on that?

Dr. Theo Colborn: No. I could say something that will make you feel really bad. They've just never been tested. That's the problem.

Remember, this was poundage, so these were the more highly used pesticides. People have started looking at those. I'll use the names: atrazine, endosulfan. I can say it here. These are widely used chemicals, lots of pounds. So that's what you're looking at.

As for the others, you could give me the names of, I'll bet, 50 or 60 chemicals, and I'd go back—I have one of the best databases in the world—and we'd have absolutely no information on those chemicals, other than what's in the Farm Chemical Handbook. That's all.

There's nothing out there. They have not been looked at.

Mr. Julian Reed: I couldn't agree with you more on your position on the release of information. In a former incarnation I was privy to a study that had been done on the heavy metal content of moose livers in Ontario, and one branch of the government where I was working wanted that information kept confidential. Fortunately my deputy minister said, “It will be published tomorrow morning.” It did not cause a panic. It resulted in some response from people who said, “Well, we don't like what we've heard, but we're sure glad you did it.” So there was no stampede or anything.

Dr. Theo Colborn: People respect the truth, and they want to know.

I feel so sorry for pregnant women today. I lecture. I go all over; I go to campuses. Who am I talking to? Young women, and their first question is, “How can I get these things out of my body? What am I going to do about my breast milk? Should I breast-feed? Where can I go to have my blood tested? Where can I go to get my milk tested?”

All I can say is, “Well, you can go pay $2,000 or $2,500 and maybe find a lab, but if you're pregnant and you want your breast milk tested, by the time you get the results back, you'll be through breast feeding, and there won't be a doctor out there who can explain to you what it means.”

• 1715

Because of the book, people now send me all these analyses they have done on their bodies—you know, their blood, their fluids. They go see doctors, because they want to know what's in their bodies. The list of chemicals, we can't even find them in the CAS listing. They're just big, long chemicals; nobody knows anything about them.

What troubles me is we know nothing about them. It's our ignorance that we have to face and deal with. That's why I love what you're doing, because we need to keep these things out of our schools, our homes, our municipalities, our churches, and our playgrounds.

It really worries me, because I know what can happen to a developing mouse or rat when exposed to some of these chemicals. It always depends upon not the dose, but the timing. That's critical. Up through puberty, these kids are really vulnerable. They truly are. I'm thoroughly convinced.

I'm an ex-pharmacist. Over the years I was in pharmacology, we used rats, hamsters, and rabbits as our models to determine whether drugs were safe or not, and we haven't even done that with the pesticides.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you, Dr. Colborn. I apologize for being late. I had to give a speech in the House.

It's very overwhelming to hear you talk about some of these things, particularly the fact that a lot of these chemicals haven't been tested and we're not entirely sure what they're going to do or even vaguely aware of what they might do. But I'd like to look at this in a different way.

What happens when you do know there are problems and it takes so long to act? For example, in the case of DDT, I remember reading in Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, that they knew there were problems with DDT the year before I was born actually. It took until the time my daughter was born before the chemical was banned in Canada. That's two generations, when we had the knowledge. This makes no rational sense to me.

So I'm wondering if you could help us shed some light on why decision-makers in industry and government are science-adverse, why they don't pay any attention to this stuff. Do you have any thoughts on that? I'm sure you do.

Dr. Theo Colborn: I shouldn't even bring it up, but everybody's afraid of a knee-jerk reaction. Remember the tall stacks for acid rain. We created tall stacks and we created acid rain, and all this stuff was flying around. That is very impressed in my mind, because I lived in the mountains of Colorado, and I was worried about what was happening to our mountain.

Governments work very slowly. I don't know about your budget, but we're working on the 2002 budget now. The budget we're working on in Washington, D.C. did not anticipate the scientific evidence and the advice the EPA got from the EDSTAC committee to move forward at the time that budget was being enacted.

Then you have different legislations. You have different people in power. The administration has some control over the budget; the House does; the Senate does. It's amazing.

There have been so many line items in our budget this year in the United States that much of the EPA's budget now—about $53 million in line items—has to come out of somewhere else in their budget. I just heard bad news last week that it's going to come out of extramural research. That's an easy place to do it. You don't have to fire anybody within EPA. This hurts. This really hurts.

Governments move slowly. Basically what I'm counting on are the industrialists, the people who are producing the products and making the chemicals. I'm hoping they will catch on. They are in some instances, and they're trying.

But also, then there are the stalling tactics. You can't expect people to turn everything off overnight. It isn't going to happen. And even if you say you have to phase something out.... For example, if you say you're going to cut out a very important plastic component, what are we going to do for our building materials? How are we going to build airplanes? How are we going to make nose cones? Where are you going to get your bottles to drink your water out of? Are we going to go back to glass? These are the kinds of things that have to be addressed.

• 1720

This is very pervasive. It has penetrated every aspect of commerce and the economy. The more I travel, the more I realize that. It's a global economy-commerce-trade problem, and it's something no one wants to pull the plug out on. But if we start addressing it, we have so many Bill Gates types who can get out there and do something overnight.

Remember, in World War II, Harry Truman put together the Manhattan Project. That was with industry money. In two years and 10 months, we built an atom bomb. I'm thoroughly convinced we need another Manhattan Project now, with industry money, and in two years and 10 months, we can give you a set of screens and assays to start testing your chemicals.

I'm telling industry it's time for them to put the money in the pot. That's what we need to do. But in the meantime governments are going to have to cooperate. There's going to have to be a lot of cooperation so that there's no redundancy. That's my big concern.

Everybody is out there looking at the estrogen receptor, and they're fighting over which one. There are a whole bunch of good estrogen receptor tests. We could use one of those and move on. Get off the estrogen receptor. Start looking at the thyroid. Let's look at some of the adrenals, the prostaglandins, what's happening with insulin and diabetes, childhood diabetes, the autoimmune problems with our children as a result of abnormal development.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: You and a lot of people say, “The use of these things is so ubiquitous. How are we going to change?” Well, how did it get to that point?

We're dealing with endocrine disruptors in our conversation with you here today. I read your book three years ago or so, when it came out. I read it on my spring vacation.

Dr. Theo Colborn: It ruined your vacation, I'm sure.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Well, it was a very well-written book, and it was easy for a layperson to understand, so I congratulate you on that, but it left me a little chilled.

We have a mindset, a value system, that allows these things to take over. What's the next big thing? What's the next big contaminant issue or environmental issue? Maybe we need to really apply the precautionary principle, because it costs us so much in human health and economics—$400,000 to treat a child. That's insane.

Dr. Theo Colborn: That's just for seven months at Johns Hopkins, and that's just for one of his problems.

Someone mentioned that we have this problem now of all kinds of diseases flaring up—new bacterial infections. But what people don't realize is as the endocrine system is affected, the immune system is as well.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Are we setting ourselves up so that we're vulnerable to these kinds of bacteria and viruses that we would ordinarily not be vulnerable to, because we have changed the way our children have developed?

And maybe these chemicals are changing the viruses and the bacteria as well. We're not looking at what they're doing to the development of the micro-organisms and the invertebrates. Well, we're beginning. We know they affect the invertebrates. We know they infect the fish. So that's very important.

I heard what you said earlier. Definitely you need use information. You need to track where these chemicals are going, where they're being used, and where they're being applied. That's extremely important, especially for the agricultural use.

Don't make the mistake they made in the United States, where somehow it got written into the legislation that if there are three or fewer distributors within a state for a product, the distribution of that product does not have to be recorded, or the sales do not have to be reported. That protects any incoming new products.

So we have a lot of blanks. When you look at our maps of the United States and you're looking at the use of, say, one of these particularly new, high-potent herbicides, we have states where we have absolutely no information, because they very wisely only have two or three distributors in the state wholesaling the product.

You need to come down and find out where we have made our mistakes in the States. But you really need a use inventory, definitely. You need to encourage, somehow, in some way—I don't know how you can do it through your pesticide laws, but you have to encourage—the development of screens and assays for these chemicals.

Hopefully Canada should not get too much involved in that. That should come from the global effort. You should be very much involved in what's going on with the OECD, the European community, and anything where you can work internationally so that you're pooling your efforts.

• 1725

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So they're making progress internationally through the OECD?

Dr. Theo Colborn: The OECD has taken the responsibility of looking at two—well, it's actually three. There's what's called the Herschberger assay, and then another one is the fourteen-day male and female pubertal assay. They're looking into those right now and trying to refine them, get them standardized and validated, so that they can be picked up anywhere and used.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you.

I have a couple of brief questions, Dr. Colborn. One has to do with a definition. We are trying as a committee to come to grips with an appropriate definition of “risk management”. If you had to face that assignment, how would you tackle it?

Dr. Theo Colborn: You have to go back to the most sensitive individual, which would be the embryo, where there is absolutely no threshold for a chemical. You have to use the precautionary principle. I'm sorry. I'm very concerned with the way risk has....

Risk does not serve you in this kind of perspective, because if you take a whole bunch of animals and expose them to these chemicals, you're going to see the effect in every one of the pups. With cancer, it was maybe one in 200 or maybe one in 1,000 animals, and then we called it a carcinogen. It was an odds game. This is not an odds game. This is a population game where every child will be affected. There's a difference.

So you can't use the old risk approach at all. That's why we say use precaution, shift the burden of onus, and use the weight of evidence.

The Chair: The precautionary principle, according to the Rio 1992 bible, includes the term “cost effectiveness”. Do you subscribe to that definition?

Dr. Theo Colborn: Well, until we can learn to cost in—in other words, price in what the costs are.... It's really easy to calculate what the benefits of anything are and put a price on them, but it is very difficult to price in the costs. We have not priced in the cost.

We have to start thinking of what it means to have a child who costs $400,000 for one aspect of what happened to this individual in the womb. These are the things we have to start thinking about. I don't know how you get the economists to do it. If we can get Herman Daly to do it, maybe, with his blessing, we can come up with something that will give you a tool to work with.

The Chair: In your preface, you have a paragraph I would like you to expand on for a second, please. You write:

    The signs at the moment suggest that vested interests will focus their efforts on the Environmental Protection Agency's process to develop new screening procedures for identifying endocrine disruptors. The struggle will centre on how broadly to define the problem. Factions within the chemical industry have already attempted to limit the scope of concern solely to compounds that interfere with estrogen.

As the weight of the evidence has shown, the issue is far broader. Chemical interests have much to gain from denying this process and restricting the official scope of the endocrine disruptor problem as much as possible. The narrower this definition, the easier it will be to confine the problem and dismiss its importance, and the cheaper it will be to conduct new tests.

Can you give us some background or some examples, please?

Dr. Theo Colborn: Yes. Actually, they did want to just limit it to estrogens and estrogens in the environment. There was a big battle over that, and then it was agreed that at least we could expand to thyroid hormones.

What can I tell you? Basically it said for me what should be said. We have to develop these screens and assays, and they have to be broad. I would venture to say that two or three generations from now, we're still going to be developing assays and screens to catch some of these endocrine effects, because the endocrine system is so complex, and there is no way, I hope, that society will ever feed pregnant women chemicals to find out what they're doing.

• 1730

So we have no other choice but to use precaution. What else can I say? I'm sorry. You put me on the spot. I have nothing profound to say.

The Chair: Well, that was certainly not my intent.

We have time for a brief question.

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I have a point of information.

Maybe there's an opportunity to ask John Carey, who's working on the OECD team and who is in fact now at CCIW in Burlington, to come and report to this committee on the progress they are making on endocrine disruptor screens and assays.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Oh, on the screens and tests, yes, but he won't be able to give you any results of the TSRI.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: No, but he is one of the leading researchers in Canada who's working on the information, and he is part of the Department of the Environment, so perhaps we could ask him to come along.

The Chair: Thank you.

We have one last question from Mr. Lincoln to conclude.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I wanted to ask you about a statement you made, to make sure I got it right. There's an estimate that $7 million per day, on a cumulative basis, is lost in the United States?

Dr. Theo Colborn: No, it's $7 billion in lifetime earnings of a year class of children. There were probably 4 million babies born in the United States this year, so for one IQ deficit, that would be reflected in a $7 billion lifetime earning drop for that year class of children born.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: For that class of children.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Yes, that one year of children.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In that year?

Dr. Theo Colborn: Yes. This is over their lifetime, in other words. This is what's lost in lifetime earnings.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Is that an estimate that has been sustained by research, or is it just a...?

Dr. Theo Colborn: What I need to send you is the work that was done on lead. This was done on lead, and they came up with a figure for lead, based on the reduction of one microgram per decilitre of lead in a year class of children. So that's what we tried. We tried to fool around with that and figure out what that would cost. Those figures have been done on lead, and this is what's made a big difference in how we treat lead.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In your research on the mixing of chemicals that produce all the disruption in reproductive systems, is there any evidence that the IQ of people or babies is affected as well?

Dr. Theo Colborn: Yes, that's the Great Lakes study, of children who live along the shoreline of the Great Lakes and whose mothers ate fish out of the Great Lakes—two to three fish meals a month, approximately, or less. These children have a 6.2 IQ deficit. The most highly affected children in this study—this is the Jacobson study—had a deficit of about 10 or 12 IQ points. This would be the geometric mean out of that population.

Also, they've done studies on a Lake Ontario group now. It's a group of children who came along 10 years later, and they started the study all over again with a new bunch of children. In this new study, they've looked at how the children behave as well. They found the children whose mothers have the highest PCBs have learning disabilities and short-term problems, they don't habituate well, they don't smile and laugh as much, they express more fear, and they're very hyper-reactive to unpleasant events.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: So what you want Herman Daly to do is an economic projection of all the damage caused to society by chemicals?

Dr. Theo Colborn: We can probably do it for PCBs now. That's what we want to work on with the PCBs. But if we could do it just based on IQ, that would help. We know a number of chemicals—the dioxins, the PCBs, and a number of the pesticides—affect the thyroid and cause hypothyroidism. All you need is the slightest reduction, about 2.6 parts per trillion, in free T4 thyroxine in the mother during gestation, and there will be an IQ deficit in that child. It doesn't take much. And that's almost in the normal range for thyroid hormone in the mother.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Thank goodness you escaped.

Voices: Oh, oh!

The Chair: We would like to conclude with one final question.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

• 1735

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I'm familiar with the Jacobson studies. Have studies been conducted where they look at mothers who are part of this cohort of reduced IQ problems? They were the babies of the mothers who ate the fish, for example, and they went on to have children. Have there been studies of the next generation?

Dr. Theo Colborn: No.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Not yet?

Dr. Theo Colborn: The only thing is in the laboratory, this work came out of Helen Daly feeding rats fish out of Lake Ontario, and she said the first generation's offspring were very hyper-reactive. She didn't feed them, but then the offspring were bred, so basically the grandchildren of the rats she fed were more hyper-reactive than the children.

So we're wondering. We just don't know. It means there was some kind of chromosomal change in there. Something happened. Or was there just enough left over? We just haven't got it figured out yet, but this is a concern.

A study that came out of the NIEHS looked at diethylstilbestrol. Again, they fed diethylstilbestrol to rats in the laboratory. Their offspring had the usual diethylstilbestrol abnormal reproductive tracts; they had difficulty reproducing. Then those who did reproduce had children who didn't have difficulty reproducing, but they had all kinds of bizarre cancers. So the third generation is exhibiting.... These are the DES rats, but we used DES as the model for environmental estrogen. So we don't know.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right, because this is a concern for mothering issues. If there are problems in habituation, more aggressive behaviour, attention deficit, and things like this, what kind of parenting is going to occur by both the mother and the father? Then if the fetus is impaired through this process, you get this double-whammy.

Dr. Theo Colborn: That's right. That's what we're very concerned about.

The Chair: I have a small commercial for those who have many more questions they wish to ask. The commercial has to do with the book.

Dr. Theo Colborn: I have to catch a 7 o'clock plane. Will I make it?

The Chair: Yes, and we will adjourn.

The title of the book is Our Stolen Future. It has a forward by Vice-President Al Gore. It's available in the bookstores for only $19.99. We hope you will all get a copy.

Dr. Colborn, Ms. Rickman, Mr. Mausberg, thank you very much for your appearance.

Dr. Theo Colborn: Thank you very much.

Ms. Angela Rickman: Thank you.

Mr. Burkhard Mausberg: Thank you.

The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.