That, in the opinion of the House, microbeads in consumer products entering the environment could have serious harmful effects, and therefore the government should take immediate measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am proud to stand here to debate our motion and to start the process for banning microbeads in products that we use everyday. The time has come for us to begin that step toward protecting the health of our ecosystems and our health as humans. I am pleased that the NDP is dedicating this entire day of debate to the issue of microbeads.
My only regret is that my colleague from is not here today because this is his motion, not mine. The MP for Windsor West has been working tirelessly with industry, environment groups and citizen action groups on this issue. Unfortunately, he is not here today to see his work culminate in an opposition day motion and a debate in the House because his grandmother passed away last week. He is speaking at her funeral today, and he is with his family.
We are real people in the House and we have real joys and real sorrows. This is a moment of sorrow for our colleague from Windsor West. He is with his family where he should be, celebrating the long life and legacy of Marion Masse, affectionately known as “Ma”, who lived a long 96 years. Our thoughts are with the member and his family.
We will carry on with this debate. It is officially in my name because one needs to be here for the motion to be in one's name. However, we know in our hearts that it is the member's hard work that actually brought this motion to the House.
What are we debating? Microbeads are these tiny little beads of plastic, and members would be amazed what they are in. They are in so many different products. Think about those products that you use to create that rosy glow you have, Mr. Speaker, and exfoliate your skin. They are in those abrasive toothpastes we use or in the body wash we use in the shower.
It may be okay to use these microbeads on our skin, but it is not okay to use them once they get into the environment and our ecosystems, and they are not okay for our health. These microbeads are plastic. A tube of toothpaste has tens of thousands of these tiny plastic beads in them. We brush our teeth and they go down the drain into our waterways. We wash our face and millions of these tiny plastic beads go right down the drain and end up in our lakes, our rivers and our oceans. That is not what we intended.
These plastic microbeads are so small that they are consumed by a variety of marine life. We have seen them in plankton. Plankton is about the smallest thing we can get, yet these microbeads are it. We have seen them in shellfish and in mollusks. We know that fish are ingesting them. We start with small fish, but then go up the food chain to larger fish. Think about the microbeads that are accumulating in these fish and mollusks. They are being eaten by birds, seals, whales and us. At the end of this food chain, we are ingesting marine life that has tiny beads of plastic in it.
Animals are suffering because of this plastic. We have seen cases of asphyxiation where animals cannot breathe. We have seen fish guts filled with plastic and fish that have starved to death because they cannot eat anymore as they are so filled with plastic. We have seen disruption at the cellular level. We know this is having an impact on the very cells of marine life. There is something terribly wrong here. I do not know that having that rosy glow is worth it when we see these beads go right down the drain and into our ecosystem like this.
We also know that these tiny beads are almost like sponges and they absorb other toxins from the water. We know they absorb DDT and PCBs. They are in everything, from mollusks to fish to seals. At the end of the day what happens when we eat that wildlife?
How did this happen? Our grandparents would add oatmeal to soap to have that abrasive quality. We used to use natural products like oatmeal, ground almonds or sea salt. However, in the seventies, these little plastic beads were developed and they really took off in the 1990s. Now we almost cannot buy a product without these microbeads in it. They are pervasive, they are everywhere. I will admit, I have fallen into this trap. Jojoba beads are in my face wash, and I did not do the investigation to find out what that meant. Unbeknownst to me, I am flushing plastic down my drain along with everybody else. We do not realize these plastics are in our products.
Plastic beads are in toothpaste. Last night I did a Facebook post at the end of the evening, so it was a little too late for most of my folks on the east coast to pick up on this post, but other people commented on it. I had a number of posts from dental hygienists. They said that they were seeing these microbeads build up behind people's gum line, and they have to peel this plastic out from behind their gums, which is then causing even more gum disease and damage to our teeth. We did not expect that to happen. These are the unintended consequences of having put plastics into products we use every day.
A lot of people on my Facebook posts admitted they had no idea. They just assumed it was something like oatmeal or that these jojoba beads must be something positive and natural. That is not the case. More education is needed on this issue for sure, but we also need action to ban these microbeads from our products.
On the education front, Environmental Defence and Ecojustice in particular have done a lot of work on this issue. Environmental Defence has done a great job of raising awareness around microbeads. It has talked to me about this and has said that there has been incredible pickup from the community at large, that people are interested in this issue, that they do not realize the microbeads are there and that they are really concerned about what it means for our environment and our health.
Environmental Defence has done really good work at the provincial level. For example, in Ontario a private member's bill is working its way through the Ontario legislature. I believe it passed second reading, and Environmental Defence has been promoting that work.
Environmental Defence has also worked on a petition to deal with this at the federal level. If we have one province doing X and one province doing Y, we end up with a patchwork and it does not help anybody, including industry. Therefore, Environmental Defence has talked about the fact that this should come from the federal level.
How do we do it? Environmental Defence has started with a petition. The critics for the environment and the get emails from people. This weekend I received 2,500 contacts from this petition. I know there are almost 7,000 signatures on it already. Environmental Defence is working with Ecojustice, the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the Ottawa Riverkeeper. They have written a letter to the asking her basically what we are asking for in our motion today, which is to take the first step of listing this as a toxic substances under CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, so we can do an assessment and take that first step toward banning these microbeads.
A lot of people think we are taking on the cosmetics industry. A lot of industry has voluntarily banned these beads. I am happy to report that Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, for example, have taken the steps to ban these beads, but they want an even playing field. They want to ensure that everybody is adhering to this, and they want regulation.
I am holding in my hand a letter from the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. It talks about our motion. It points out the work of my colleague from and says that this is the general advice and direction for which its industry is most supportive. Therefore, we are not getting push back from industry.
We really need to act and ban these microbeads. The best way to deal with pollution is to prevent it in the first place. We are on board, the environment groups are on board and industry is on board. I look forward to the debate in the House today. I hope the government is on board with this as well and that we can act swiftly to get rid of these microbeads before it is too late.
Mr. Speaker, by moving this motion, we are trying to ban the use of microbeads in consumer products. Since the 1990s, these products have become veritable vectors of these microbeads, which end up poisoning our ecosystems because they are ingested by various marine organisms. Slowly but surely we are indirectly poisoning ourselves with our consumer products.
These microbeads take up the most toxic substances, which can ultimately poison us. It is not just consumer products that introduce microplastics into the environment. For example, when we wash our clothes, microplastics can be shed by the nylon and the fabric. However, compared to other ways that microplastics enter the environment, especially by the degradation of plastic products, consumer products are the easiest to target in order to eliminate microbeads. Since it is so easy to do it, we must do it.
Last October, Francine Plourde did an exposé on microbeads on the Radio-Canada program Les années lumière. It exposed the insidious plastics chain that has led us to move this motion calling on the government to take immediate measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The study carried out by McGill University researchers, together with the Government of Quebec, examined the significant presence of polluting microbeads in the sediment of our St. Lawrence River. She told us that, in some spots, the researchers found more than 1,000 microbeads per litre of sediment, which is much higher than what is being found in the world's most contaminated marine sediments. An analysis of the structures of the microbeads found points to the same microbeads that are in consumer products.
The term microplastics generally refers to plastic particles smaller than five millimetres in diameter. Microbeads found in cosmetics are always less than one millimetre in diameter.
I will try to explain the cycle of microbeads in a few points. First, thousands of cosmetic products use plastic microbeads, generally in exfoliants and cleansing products.
In 2009, Fendall and Sewell, from the University of Auckland, found that microbeads pass into waste water and sewer systems directly because they are too small to be retained by the filters used at sewage treatment plants. That is how they end up in marine environments and eventually in the food chain.
Although the full extent and consequences are hard to quantify, the accumulation of plastic in the marine environment is now recognized as a serious, global environmental issue. Some specialists have even said that it is like putting a plastic bag over the head of our marine environment. I do not have to explain that having a plastic bag over one's head does not usually end well. The impact that this kind of pollution is having on marine biodiversity and human health is causing grave concern among scientists.
I would like to share some scientific findings with the House. Marine species are unable to distinguish between food and microplastics, and therefore often end up indiscriminately feeding on microplastics. In an overview published for the Convention on Biological Diversity, it was shown that over 663 different species were adversely affected by marine debris, with approximately 11% of reported cases specifically related to the ingestion of microplastics. Some species of fish excrete plastic easily, but others do not and therefore accumulate plastic internally.
For instance, one study found that around 35% of 670 fish examined, from six different species, had plastic in their stomachs. The highest number of plastic fragments found in one fish alone was 83.
In terms of human health, it has been proven that microplastics attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants.
Pollutants such as PCBs and DDT are already present in the environment. Relatively high concentrations of these persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, have been detected on the surface of microplastics.
International Pellet Watch, coordinated by Professor Takada of the University of Tokyo, is currently researching this. Professor Takada's scientific work shows that some persistent organic pollutants have been found in the tissues of seabirds after the birds ingested microplastics carrying these pollutants.
In theory, POPs ingested by animals should be able to bind to the fragments of plastic that are swallowed before being naturally expelled. However, these pieces of plastic have been found in the intestines and tissues of fish and other seafood regularly consumed by humans.
Scientists are concerned that these POPs will eventually accumulate in the food chain as they are transmitted from species to species and that they could end up having negative consequences for human beings.
Toxic chemicals, such as plasticizers and flame retardants, that are added to plastics during manufacturing can be released into the environment and can threaten marine animals. Some of the most common plasticizers have been found in fish, marine mammals and mollusks.
Currently, in terms of human health, most of the studies are based on animal models. We do not know the health risks, but since there are potential risks, it would be totally unethical to experiment on human beings. That is why studies are based on animal models, particularly rats, to determine the potential effects on humans.
Any studies involving humans would be long-term observational studies, but the problem with such studies is that by the time the potential consequences for human beings become clear, it could be too late because the toxic effects will already be present.
I can cite some potential effects of products derived from synthetic organic chemistry. For example, aldicarb is highly toxic to the nervous system. Benzene can damage chromosomes and cause leukemia, anemia, and blood disorders. When it comes to vinyl chloride, we often talk about damage to the liver, kidneys and lungs, and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems. It is also a carcinogen and a suspected mutagen. A mutagen causes genetic mutation, including in vitro. Chloroform could cause damage to the liver and the kidneys. It is a suspected carcinogen. Dioxins are carcinogens and mutagens that can affect the skin. When we talk about ethylene dibromide, we are talking about cancer and male sterility. Polychlorinated biphenyl can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and lungs. Carbon tetrachloride is a carcinogen. It affects the liver, kidneys, lungs, and central nervous system. High doses of trichloroethylene damage the liver, kidneys, central nervous system and the skin. It is a carcinogen and a suspected mutagen.
As you can see, there are many chemical substances associated with plastic microbeads, which are potentially hazardous to human health. It is quite worrisome.
I have here another study on the many effects of these chemical substances. The study indicates that children and pregnant women are the most affected. What is more, these substances have a huge impact on male reproductive health, including problems with undescended testicles, poor sperm quality, and changes in testosterone levels. The male reproductive system is particularly sensitive to exposure to these chemicals.
Waiting to see what effects these chemicals will have on humans before taking action comes with serious risk. That is why I would recommend that we err on the side of caution when it comes to plastic microbeads. Although there are few studies on humans, there are many studies based on animal models that are very good. I can name several for the if he would like. It would be my pleasure.
If we want to respect the principle discussed at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, we should exercise caution with respect to plastic microbeads and vote for the motion moved by my colleague from .
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this motion. I will let the House know that I will be sharing my time with the , the member for .
It is a pleasure to provide the House with an update on the actions that our government has taken to protect the health of Canadian families and the environment from the risks posed by pollution and harmful substances. This is an issue that our government has championed since taking office in 2006. For that reason, I am pleased to provide a summary of a few of these activities.
First of all, as we know, chemicals used safely provide untold benefits for Canadians, supporting innovation across virtually every sector of the Canadian economy from medicine to manufacturing and from transportation to high technology. Our government has taken steps, including an investment of over $800 million to ensure that chemicals used in our homes, businesses, and public spaces are properly managed and that risks to Canadians are minimized, regardless of whether these chemicals are new to industry or have been used for decades.
Our government's chemicals management plan, initially announced by the in 2006, has set an ambitious agenda to ensure the safety of all chemicals used in Canada. This program has made Canada a world leader in assessing and regulating chemicals used in industrial and consumer products. This work has a direct impact on the health of all Canadians and the environment in which we live.
In 2006, our government invested $300 million for Environment Canada and Health Canada to take rapid action on chemicals, using a transparent, whole-of-government approach to ensure that all potential sources of exposure were investigated, whether they be through air, water, food products, or any other source. This funding was renewed in budget 2011, when our government invested a further $506 million over five years to ensure that this work would continue at full speed.
In addition to providing Canadians with greater security in the health of the environment, the direction our government has taken is important to the chemicals industry, with which we have also worked very closely. The science-based decisions taken under the chemicals management plan provide businesses with investment certainty and stability, and promote research and development into new processes and safer alternatives to those that have been identified as being of concern.
We have taken major strides under the chemicals management plan to address chemicals identified as having potential risks to human health or the environment. We have worked through the assessment of more than 2,700 substances in commerce to date. They are substances that have been in use in Canada for many years without ever having been evaluated by the government for their safety. We have set for ourselves the goal of completing the evaluation of approximately 4,300 substances by 2020.
At the same time, under the chemicals management plan, the government has screened more than 3,000 substances new to Canada prior to their entry into the Canadian market. We have applied any necessary conditions or other measures to ensure that any of these new chemicals are used safely when they reach our borders. For any substance found to pose a risk, our government uses a suite of tools and legislation to ensure that they are not used in ways that could lead to harm to Canadians or their environment. To date, we have taken action on more than 60 chemicals or groups of chemicals that have been scientifically shown to be harmful to the environment or human health. We have also published more than 60 risk management measures that are customized based on a number of factors, such as where releases occur and populations that are identified as being most at risk.
The chemicals management plan is also an adaptive program able to react to new priorities, such as microbeads in the environment. Microplastics are increasingly found in the environment and take on a number of forms, including manufactured microbeads used for a variety of applications and the natural breakdown of plastic debris in the environment.
Through the chemicals management plan, the impacts of microplastics, including microbeads, on ecosystems are being investigated, and our government is closely following new developments on microplastics as they become available. We will continue to raise this issue with our counterparts in the United States and Ontario under the Great Lakes agenda, as well as with our counterparts who actively participate in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Our government's chemical management plan will also prioritize microbeads for assessment.
The government is also working internationally by actively participating in discussions on the prevention of marine plastic pollution, notably through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations. Domestically, we continue to work with industry to promote sound stewardship of potential pollutants. Several companies from the personal care and cosmetic sectors have already publicly committed to stop using synthetic microbeads. In addition, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association promotes Operation Clean Sweep in Canada, an international voluntary program to prevent plastic pellet losses in the environment.
Our country's thousands of lakes and rivers are a vital part of Canada's natural heritage and a legacy for future generations of Canadians, from supporting biodiversity and healthy aquatic ecosystems, to opening up countless possibilities for recreation, to sustaining our drinking water. For this reason, another key element in our government's commitment to ensuring a safe and clean environment is the measures we have taken to strengthen regulations for water protection. Since 2006, our government has committed $2.3 billion to waste water infrastructures, through various programs.
In addition to these investments, our government's waste water systems effluent regulations, developed with provinces, municipalities and other stakeholders, will help to protect Canada's water quality, ultimately improving ecosystem health.
The new standards will ensure untreated and undertreated sewage are not dumped into our country's waterways. The estimated benefits to Canadians and our economy include improved health of fish and aquatic systems and increasing safety for recreational activities that are part of our tourism industry.
For the waste water systems that do not meet the new standards, there will be time for municipalities to plan and budget funds to complete the upgrades.
I am sure all members would agree that our water is precious. These measures will help us address the largest source of pollution to our lakes and rivers, and in doing so we will help protect Canadians and their environment.
There is no question that protecting the health of Canadians and their environment is a key priority of our government. This priority is clearly reflected through measures such as those I have just described.
With respect to chemicals in the environment, this continues to be a key priority for our government to ensure that Canadians are fully protected and informed. I would urge all my hon. colleagues to support this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on today's motion. As we heard from the , it is something that we believe is important for prioritizing in future reviews.
Our government is committed to ensuring we protect the environment so that all Canadians will have clean air, water, and land and so that these gifts will remain available for their children long into the future. We take our responsibilities as stewards of these natural resources very seriously, and we take a careful, science-based approach when it comes to the rules and regulations that oversee them.
There is no difference when it comes to the regulation of the cosmetic industry. Manufacturers are required to meet strong standards when it comes to assessing any health or safety risks of these products, and they are given a thorough review.
My colleague discussed the chemicals management plan in some depth. I would like to add to the debate in terms of Health Canada's role in regulating the cosmetic industry.
The Government of Canada has some of the most stringent regulations for cosmetics in the world. Our government restricts or prohibits the use of substances that may cause harm to Canadians, and we respond to emerging issues with a risk-based approach. When necessary, we act with targeted enforcement and make regulatory changes as needed.
Health Canada takes this risk-based approach very seriously in regulating cosmetics and other consumer products. That means that the department considers both the properties of the substance in products as well as the amount that Canadians are exposed to under normal conditions of use to determine whether there is a risk that needs to be addressed.
The motion before us today has raised the question that microbeads and consumer products could have serious harmful effects and proposes that the government take measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
In cosmetics and personal care products, microbeads are made of plastics like polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. These substances also have many other known uses in cosmetics, such as acting as binding and bulking agents, stabilizers, film formers, and skin conditioning agents.
All cosmetics sold in Canada must be safe to use and must meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and the Cosmetic Regulations. A key requirement of the Cosmetic Regulations is that manufacturers or importers must notify Health Canada within 10 days of the first sale of the product, and the notification must include information about the product's formulation.
The Cosmetic Regulations also require manufacturers or importers to disclose all ingredients on the product label, using the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients name. This requirement allows consumers to check for possible ingredients to which they may be sensitive or that they choose to avoid, thereby allowing for more informed decisions regarding product purchase and use. This requirement also helps the department review the product's ingredients for harmful substances. This is the same naming convention used in the European Union and in the United States.
In addition, the labels of approved personal care products include the product's recommended use or purpose, which may include health claims, dosage information, medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients, and any warnings or cautions associated with the product.
Health Canada takes into consideration each of these factors when considering the impact on human health. Presently, none of the plastic substances that commonly make up microbeads have raised human safety concerns as currently used in cosmetics. Canadians can rest assured that if any concerns for human health are identified, Health Canada will take the appropriate action.
The ingredients used to make microbeads are considered non-medicinal and will be listed on the product's label. This requirement ensures that Canadian consumers are able to make informed decisions about the personal care products they purchase and use them in the appropriate manner.
Health Canada also has a cosmetic ingredient hot list, which is an administrative tool used to communicate to manufacturers and others that certain substances, when present in a cosmetic, may contravene the general prohibition found in section 16 of the Food and Drugs Act or a provision of the Cosmetic Regulations.
Departmental officials closely follow international scientific and regulatory reports and regularly review the safety of cosmetic ingredients. As well, stakeholders are welcome to submit proposed changes to the hot list to Health Canada.
As I said from the outset, we take the environmental health of Canadians very seriously. For this reason, in 2006 the government launched the chemicals management plan to strengthen efforts to protect human health and the environment from the risk of chemicals.
This chemicals management plan is a world-leading approach to chemical management that has been widely endorsed by industry and non-governmental organizations alike. It is a joint program between Environment Canada and Health Canada. We heard earlier how many chemicals have been assessed over the last number of years, and it is certainly an extraordinary number.
Some of the chemicals that are used to make microbeads are among the chemicals to be assessed in the future under the chemicals management plan, and if concerns are identified, Health Canada will take action.
The reviews that have taken place under this plan are not just an academic exercise. This process is providing real results for Canadians and is resulting in strong action against problem chemicals when they are identified.
To date, the plan has resulted in 26 new substances being added to the cosmetic ingredient hot list. In addition, two existing hot list items have been amended to provide more protection for the health of Canadians.
In our budget of 2011, the government made sure that the management of chemicals was a top priority. The chemicals management plan received more than $506 million in additional funding over the next five years, so I think it is very clear that we do take the health and safety of Canadians seriously. The importance of consumer product safety is something that we all share. Under the chemicals management plan, the Food and Drugs Act, and the Cosmetic Regulations, the government addresses such issues as microbeads in cosmetics. If emerging science shows a risk to human health, the government will act swiftly.
In conclusion, I think we have good systems in place. We have science that continues to emerge, and what we need to do is respond to the scientific evidence.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about microbeads or small plastic beads in consumer products, which enter our environment and can have serious harmful effects.
The United Nations Environment Programme looked at plastic waste in the ocean in 2011. Since then, concern has grown over microplastics, particles up to five millimetres in diameter, either manufactured or created when plastic breaks down. Fish, mussels, seabirds and sea plankton ingest microplastics and that is harmful.
A growing concern is the increasing use of microplastics in consumer products, namely microbeads in facial cleansers, gels and toothpaste, which are released into rivers, lakes and the oceans. Microbes have been discovered on microplastics at multiple locations in the North Atlantic. This so-called plastisphere can help the transport of harmful algae species, microbes and pathogens. Microplastics are also a threat to larger organisms such as the endangered northern right whale.
Closer to home, scientists have found millions of these microbeads in just one square kilometre of parts of our Great Lakes as a result of a number of companies adding them to their consumer products. Sometimes microbeads are used to help exfoliate the skin. Other times they are added to products to make them sparkle.
Research by the Institute for Environmental Studies found that a 200-millilitre bottle contained as much as 21 grams of microplastics, or roughly one-tenth of its weight. Microbeads are commonly made of polyethylene or polypropylene and they range in size from .0004 to 1.24 millimetres, making them too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants. As a result, these tiny beads pass through our wastewater treatment filters and end up in our lakes and rivers.
These beads are often buoyant and can soak up toxins like a sponge. Since they resemble the size of fish eggs, environmentalists are concerned that the microplastics are making their way into the food chain via fish, birds and mammals. Scientists have recently raised alarm, warning that microbeads might have harmful effects on human health. For example, some evidence suggests that microbeads can absorb persistent organic pollutants.
Research spanning all five Great Lakes was undertaken in 2012 and 2013. Unlike in the ocean where the researchers found “confetti-like” bits of degraded plastic up to five millimetres in size, the researchers trawling the Great Lakes found large amounts of really tiny plastic fragments and beads up to one millimetre. As they followed the flow of the water through the Great Lakes, the plastic count increased. The highest concentration was found in Lake Ontario with counts of up to 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometre.
There is increasing momentum in the United States to get microbeads out of products. Last year, Illinois became the first state to pass legislation that would outright ban the sale of personal care products that contain microbeads by the end of 2019. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said:
Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow. Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources.
Chemist Sherri Mason, an associate professor at the State University of New York, who conducted the first study that found microbeads floating in the Great Lakes, said that while she is glad to see Illinois leading the way, she is troubled by the far-off deadline. She said, “The later date means more microbeads are going down the drain before we're really taking the measures that need to be taken”.
Just this week, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation, making New Jersey the second state in the United States to ban the substances. The law prohibits the manufacturing, sale and promotion in the state of any personal care product with microbeads made from polyethylene.
Senator Christopher Bateman said:
By signing this bill into law, we are placing our state at the forefront of a national effort to eliminate the dangers this product poses to our environment and our water supply.... The only way to keep our drinking water safe and protect our beautiful rivers and lakes is to stop production and get these items off the shelves.
The law would be phased in, beginning with a ban on the production of products containing microbeads in January 2018. By January 2020, people would be prohibited from selling or promoting over-the-counter products containing the substances.
According to Environmental Defence, “A ban is looking promising in Indiana and lawmakers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Maine, California, New York, Ohio and Washington State have also considered, or are considering, new laws banning the beads”.
To reiterate, in the United States, two states, Illinois and New Jersey, have passed laws banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. Nine other states are considering similar measures. In Canada, a private member's bill to ban microbeads has been introduced in Ontario's legislature, but neither the federal government nor the other provinces have taken similar action.
In addition to legislative action, the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of Canadian and U.S. mayors from 114 cities along the water bodies, has raised awareness about the microbead problem within their communities and pushed companies to eliminate them from their products. “We think we've done a pretty good job”, said executive director David Ullrich, though he acknowledges, “there is always more that the initiative could be doing”.
CBC reported in June 2014 that a number of personal care product manufacturers have promised to cut microbeads from their products in the coming years, but dates vary.
In January 2015, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands issued a joint call to ban the microplastics used in personal care products, saying the measure will protect marine ecosystems and seafood, such as mussels, from contamination. The joint statement was forwarded to the European Union's 28 environment ministers and stated that the elimination of microplastics in products and, in particular, in cosmetics “is of utmost priority”.
According to UNEP:
Although it is evident that alternatives to microplastics are available, hundreds of tons of microplastics are still being released onto the EU market each year. The Netherlands is particularly worried because of concerns that seafood--including its national production of mussels--could suffer from micro-plastic pollution.
“There is a still a large degree of uncertainty but what we already know gives us cause for concern,” the Netherlands state in its call for action. “In this case, the precautionary principle applies.”
Governments from around the world present at the first UN Environment Assembly adopted a resolution on marine plastic debris and microplastics. They called for strengthened action, in particular by addressing such materials at the source and requested UNEP to present scientific assessments on microplastics for consideration by the next session of the Assembly.
UNEP through the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is also supporting initiatives such as the “Beat the Microbead”--a phone application that allows consumers to quickly identify personal care products containing microbeads--in its efforts to reduce influx of waste in the marine environment.
Concern is growing over the threat that widespread plastic waste poses to marine life, with conservative estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems standing at U.S. $13 billion each year.
The UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director said:
Plastics have come to play a crucial role in modern life, but the environmental impacts of the way we use them cannot be ignored. These reports show that reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits--from reducing economic damage to marine ecosystems and the tourism and fisheries industries, vital for many developing countries, to bringing savings and opportunities for innovation to companies while reducing reputational risks.
...in the polar regions, scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic trapped in sea ice. Transported by ocean currents across great distances, these contaminated particles eventually become a source of chemicals in our food. The key course of action is to prevent plastic debris from entering the environment in the first place, which translates into a single, powerful objective: reduce, reuse, recycle.
There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste: illness or death when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles; entanglement of animals such as dolphins and whales; and damage to critical habitat such as coral reefs. There are also concerns about chemical contamination, invasive species spread by plastic fragments and economic damage to the fishery, fishing and tourism industries in many countries.
What recommendations have been put forth to address this issue?
Companies should monitor their plastic use and publish the results in annual reports. Companies could commit to reducing the environmental impact of plastics through clear targets and deadlines, and innovate to increase resource efficiency and recycling. There should be an increased focus on awareness campaigns to discourage littering and prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean. There should be an application that allows consumers to check whether a product contains microbeads. This is already available and is expanding its coverage internationally.
This is a motion that the NDP brought forward. We heard today that the is asking people to support this motion. It is important.
Since plastic particles can be ingested by marine organisms and potentially accumulate and deliver toxins through the food web, efforts should be stepped up to fill the knowledge gap.
These beads are affecting our water. The plastics absorb dangerous chemicals and are ingested by fish and other wildlife, causing DNA damage and even death. The link between the problem and the cause is clear. The beads found in the Great Lakes were tested and were found to have come from products like body wash, facial cleansers and toothpaste.
Microbeads is an important issue and this is an important debate. It is really positive to see this Parliament coming together and recognizing this problem. We have not always agreed when it comes to the environment. The government does not have a positive record when it comes to the environment.
The 2008 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009 and again in 2013, The Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrial nations on environmental performance.
In 2010, Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. It is important that we are coming together and that everyone is saying that microbeads are an important issue.
The government also gutted environmental legislation of the last 50 years through economic plans 2012 and 2013, and Bills and . It severely cut the budget to Environment Canada and cancelled the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Government scientists have been muzzled. The government's environmental policies have been criticized by policymakers, scientists, Canadians and the international community, and repeatedly by the prestigious international journal, Nature.
Water is the foundation of life, and it is essential for socio-economic systems and healthy ecosystems. The World Bank states that “Water is at the center of economic and social development” and is elemental across economic sectors, including agriculture, energy and industry. The government stripped federal oversight from thousands of Canadian waterways through Bill and reduced the protection of thousands of Canadian lakes.
Going forward, Canada needs a national water strategy, and our country is well placed to become a global leader in water. For example, the Canadian Water Network, a national network of centres of excellence, can address practical challenges to be a source of new start-up companies and train the next generation of researchers and skilled workers.
Canada also has a relatively high level of water infrastructure regulation and water management systems. The most recent Conference Board of Canada report on the environment ranks Canada 4th of 17 peer countries in water quality. Canada also has a growing number of competitive water companies providing goods and services to world markets.
I thank the NDP for bringing this forward. I thank the parliamentary secretary for asking everyone to support this motion. I also hope the government will work to protect Canada's coastline, establish a network of marine protected areas in Canada's waters, encourage the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, prioritize clean water, restore our freshwater ecosystems, work to clean up contaminated sediment, and protect and restore essential habitats.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
My speech on microbeads, small pieces of plastics found in consumer products like facial cleaners, shower gels and toothpastes, begins in the year 1997, 18 years ago, in the waters off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. An incident came to mind the instant I heard of this opposition day motion, outlining how microbeads could have serious health impacts and calling on the government to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the federal government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The year 1997 was the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland, and a great year in the history of the world it was, Newfoundland and Labrador being the God's country that it is. To mark the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's historic voyage from Bristol, England to Bonavista, Newfoundland, a recreation of the Cabot's ship, The Matthew, was built and sailed from Bristol to Bonavista.
I was in Bristol back then as a young journalist covering the launch of The Matthew for The Telegram, the daily newspaper in St. John's, Newfoundland. Hundreds of thousands of people watched The Matthew sail down the River Avon, and what a sight it was. Thousands more people were in Bonavista, Newfoundland weeks later, including the Queen of England, when The Matthew sailed into Bonavista. It was a grey and foggy day, just like the great Newfoundland song Grey Foggy Day.
Once The Matthew arrived in Newfoundland, over a period of several more weeks she proceeded to circumnavigate the island of Newfoundland. Every day Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, from secretaries to plumbers, lawyers to businessmen and reporters to politicians, took overnight trips on The Matthew from one leg to the next, one community to the next.
I sailed on The Matthew on the first overnight leg from Bonavista to nearby Grates Cove. That memory will always be with me. The Matthew was a wooden caravel, 78-feet long, weighing 50 tonnes, and she bobbed in the North Atlantic like a cork in a bottle.
It was nasty weather. Old-timers called that kind of weather a “capelin squall”, a mixture of bone-chilling winds, rain and fog that typically hammers the Newfoundland coast in late June just as the capelin are coming inshore to spawn. I took my turn at the wheel, and I was on the deck of The Matthew the next morning when the sun rose and finally started to bum the fog to shreds. The very first thing I saw in the waters off Grates Cove was a plastic shopping bag. I will never forget it. I can say with certainty that John Cabot did not see a plastic shopping bag floating in the ocean. As legend has it, he was too busy dropping buckets over the side of The Matthew, pulling in cod.
On a side note, there is a news story out today about how it may be another 10 years before the moratorium on northern cod is lifted, cod like John Cabot caught in buckets. By then, the ban on commercial fishing on northern cod, which was first brought down in 1992, will have lasted 33 years. As a Newfoundland and Labrador MP, I make it a point at every opportunity to hammer home to the government and the third party in the House that it will have been 33 years since the greatest industry in Newfoundland and Labrador failed as a result of complete mismanagement.
My apologies for yesterday during question period in this House when I lost it in my seat after a Conservative MP, the MP for , said that his government's management decisions are “always based on science”. My apologies for reacting to such a ridiculous statement. I should be used to such ridiculous statements. It is the fire in my belly. I apologize for that. Under the Conservative government, scientists are known more for being muzzled than anything else.
Let us get back to plastics. As I said at the start, microbeads are small, manufactured pieces of plastic used in consumer products, as has been pointed out, like facial cleansers, shower gels, and toothpaste. Microbeads have been found in high concentrations in the Great Lakes. If they are found there, in the Great Lakes, one can bet a bushel of plastic bags that they are found in the North Atlantic, in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador, in the waters off the east coast, in the waters off the Maritimes.
There is a bid by Memorial University, the university in Newfoundland and Labrador, to study ocean plastics waste and codfish consumption in Newfoundland to see if there is a correlation between microbeads and the codfish we consume. Let us hope that the study actually goes through.
New Democrats, my party, believe that the best way to deal with pollution is to prevent pollution in the first place. It is hard to argue with that.
Microbeads were first patented for use as cleaners in 1972, but it was not until the 1960s that manufacturers started using them to replace more natural materials, such as almonds, oatmeal, and sea salt.
Alternatives to microbeads do exist. Because of that, they are not considered an essential ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. If microbeads are not essential, and if they are known to cause harm to fish and other wildlife, are known to cause asphyxiation or the blockage of organs in marine mammals, and are found in fish that is eaten by people, why are we allowing microbeads?
Have we not learned yet that we put people first? We put people first by putting the environment first. Have we not learned that we put people first by preventing pollution in the first place?
In recent years, a $171-million sewage treatment plant has been built in St. John's, in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. However, waste water treatment plants like the Riverhead treatment plant, again in my riding, are not able to filter out microbeads, because microbeads are too small, and they are buoyant.
There are hundreds of communities around Newfoundland and Labrador that do not have sewage treatment plants. Hundreds. Upgrading the $171-million treatment plant in St. John's would cost tens of millions of dollars more. Where would that money come from?
There are no known ways to effectively remove microbeads, microplastics, after they make their way into the environment.
What do we want? What do New Democrats want with regard to microbeads? We want the government to take immediate action to designate microbead plastics toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. That would allow the Government of Canada to regulate, phase out, and eliminate the use of microbeads used or produced in Canada. Already, as has been pointed out, two states in the United States have banned the use of microbeads in personal care products. Countries around the world are doing the same. Here at home, a private member's bill has been introduced in Ontario. However, we need federal regulation, one law for all provinces and territories.
What do New Democrats want? We want a clean environment. We want healthy fish. We want healthy people. New Democrats want a level playing field for all businesses that manufacture products containing microbeads.
What do I want as a member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, for St. John's South—Mount Pearl? Number one, I would like the fish to come back. I wish the fish had come back two years after the moratorium, as John Crosbie predicted. I would like that to happen, but it is not predicted for another 10 years. That is what I want.
An equally important wish is for the Conservatives, the Government of Canada, to become better stewards of the environment. More and more, the Conservative government is failing the environment.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to support the NDP motion moved by my colleague from , who, I might add, is doing an excellent job as our environment critic. It is important to talk about this issue in the House today because it affects us all, especially future generations. It is time to move motions for the environment, before it is too late. Today's motion is a step in that direction, and I will read it now:
That, in the opinion of the House, microbeads in consumer products entering the environment could have serious harmful effects, and therefore the government should take immediate measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Basically, this motion calls on the federal government to take the necessary steps to classify microbeads as a toxic substance. This would allow the federal government to regulate, phase out or eliminate microbeads altogether from products used or manufactured in Canada. This simple measure would be easy to introduce. It would contribute further to preserving marine life as well as Canada's natural heritage.
Many people may be wondering what exactly microbeads are. They are tiny, round plastic particles used in the manufacture of a number of household and personal care products, including face and body washes and exfoliating scrubs.
Unfortunately, waste water treatment plants are not currently equipped with the filters needed to trap plastic microbeads. Part of the reason is that microbeads are too small, so they manage to pass through the filters and end up in the treated water from these treatment plants and in the environment.
In fact, high concentrations of microbeads have been discovered in marine environments across Canada, including in the Great Lakes, especially downstream from large cities, and in the sediments at the bottom of the St. Lawrence. Once these particles are released into our waters, they are ingested by aquatic species and therefore become an integral part of the food chain, including the human food chain. As my colleague who spoke before me mentioned, we eat a lot of fish in Canada.
Scientists and researchers around the world agree that plastic microbeads are harmful and a significant source of pollution. François Galgani, a researcher at the Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer, a French ocean research institute, said:
Sometimes microbeads are dispersed by the currents and travel thousands of kilometres from where they were discharged, thereby acting as a vector carrying microbes from one side of the planet to another, with the risk of disrupting the balance of natural environments by introducing pathogens to the local fauna and flora.
Internationally, a number of U.S. states, including Illinois, California, and New York, have already banned cosmetics containing microbeads from being marketed, or have anti-microbead legislation. What is more, the Dutch parliament is proposing to ban microplastics from beauty products throughout Europe.
Currently, at least 21 global companies that manufacture or produce beauty or personal care products are committed to reducing their plastic footprint by gradually eliminating microbeads from their products or choosing to no longer offer products containing microbeads.
In Canada, more and more groups, such as Environmental Defence Canada, are denouncing the disastrous environmental impact of these microbeads and are urging the federal government to ban these microbeads from consumer products.
The NDP takes the risks associated with microbeads very seriously. Canadian consumers and companies want to protect the environment from the harmful effects of microbeads. However, it is hard to do so without regulations that cover all the provinces and territories.
The NDP thinks the best way to eradicate the pollution caused by microbeads is to prevent it in the first place. Given that it would be expensive to upgrade waste water treatment plants and that there is no known way to effectively remove microplastics once they are in the environment, the NDP thinks the simplest and most effective solution to this problem is to prevent these particles from entering the environment.
Personally, I do not use many beauty products, but I have a very good exfoliant that contains sugar instead of microbeads. There are ingredients that can be used instead of microbeads. As an environmental precaution, many companies have opted not to use microbeads in their products. This solution is simple and cheap for manufacturers that currently use microbeads. There are alternatives available. As I said earlier, this would be much easier to enforce if there were regulations in place.
Canada must join with leading jurisdictions around the world and work toward eliminating microbeads from the products we use every day for the sake of public health and for the preservation of our environment. In that regard, New Democrats believe in protecting the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and all of our lakes and rivers from unnecessary pollution. We will take the action necessary to prevent it.
Since the beginning of my mandate, I have been personally involved in a number of environmental protection groups that are working very hard to promote an environmentally friendly, healthy and balanced approach. Today I would like to salute the teachers who have dedicated time and energy to instill good civic duty values in their students. I even had the pleasure of participating in a number of Lac Saint-Louis shoreline cleanup and remediation campaigns in Lachine and Dorval. The lake is full of garbage. Last year I worked alongside volunteers and high school students from the region, including students from école Saint-Louis. I know how important it is for young people to grow up in a green world. We need to take steps in that direction today.
I would also like to highlight the important work done by GRAME, the Groupe de recherche appliquée en macroécologie. This organization is based in Lachine and is celebrating its 26th anniversary this week. Happy anniversary. It promotes sustainable development and environmental protection, with a focus on long-term global issues and climate change. At the same time it promotes renewable energy, sustainable transportation, energy efficiency and the use of economic incentives for environmental management.
I have a constructive professional relationship with GRAME, which over the years has demonstrated remarkable ingenuity in this area. I would like to thank its director, Jonathan Théorêt, and also all its employees and all the community volunteers, who are outstanding and are truly improving our environment and our community.
The NDP wants to work with such groups to develop an environmentally friendly and sustainable way to meet the pollution challenges all around us, now and also in the future. In terms of the environment, we must act now in order to generate long-term effects. The NDP believes that it is time to properly address this issue by stopping the pollution of the marine environment by microplastics.
Experts have clearly established that microbeads contain harmful substances and therefore represent a threat to the environment. This motion, moved today by my colleague, seeks to draw the government's attention to this problem that affects us all. These NDP proposals will help improve the quality of the environment and contribute to sustainable development in Canada.
To sum up, what we want is simple and quite reasonable, in my opinion.
We want a clean and healthy environment. We want to ensure the continuation of the recreational fishery and the safety of fish and other aquatic species. To achieve this, we want to eliminate the use of microbeads in products used or produced in Canada and we want to level the playing field for all businesses that manufacture products containing microbeads to ensure that those who switch to safer alternatives are not at a competitive disadvantage.
Broadly speaking, we want the federal government to assume its responsibilities. Canadians need and deserve a government that listens to their concerns, a government that puts their interests first and best understands their needs, but most importantly, a government that is sincere about seeking to bring about real change. That is exactly what the NDP is bringing to the table. An NDP government will deliver on its promises.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak for the government today, a government that takes very seriously the protection of Canadians and our environment. Let me begin by saying I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I would like to begin by clarifying exactly what microbeads are. They are a subset of microplastics. They fall under the category of primary microplastics and are minuscule round plastic beads less than one millimetre in size. They are widely used, as we have heard this morning, in personal care products such as skin care products and cosmetics. There are also secondary microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments up to five millimetres in size that result from the breakdown of larger plastic debris.
Rather than focusing solely on the subset issue of microbeads, I would like to speak today to the broader challenge of microplastics. This is an emerging issue on which Canada, in concert with our provincial, territorial, international, and industry colleagues, is starting to make important progress.
When it comes to microplastics, as with most environmental concerns, the bottom line is that we all share responsibility for the environment. Not only does the environment know no borders, but responsibility for the environment is also not neatly contained within one jurisdiction.
This government provides strong leadership in working collaboratively with its partners and its stakeholders, both at home and abroad, to protect our environment, to protect Canadians, and to protect the economy. This includes working to ensure Canadians are protected from the serious harmful effects of toxic substances.
The impacts of microplastics, including microbeads, on ecosystems are still being investigated. Some research has shown that microplastics can adsorb and desorb a variety of pollutants and may have the potential to bio-accumulate and cause adverse effects in aquatic organisms. Debris in the marine environment falls under the shared jurisdiction of not only Environment Canada but also Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Land-based sources of marine debris, including microplastics, fall under the jurisdictions of municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
As can be seen, the issue crosses many jurisdictional boundaries, so if we want to achieve real results, it is absolutely essential that we all work together. Environment Canada is doing just that. The department is involved in initiatives with Canadian provincial governments, with American state governments, and with the broader research communities. The department has also held discussions with Canadian industry associations.
While we are collaborating within our own borders, this government also understands that if we are to prevent plastics from entering the marine environment, we need to have international engagement on this issue. I would like to take this opportunity to turn to some of the international actions and processes under way and in place that are dealing with this challenge.
Internationally, the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world's oceans are defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty. However, most of the individual treaties and agreements relevant to protecting the marine environment from sea-based pollution are administered through the International Maritime Organization conventions.
Canada is a party to the major International Maritime Organization treaties on the prevention of marine pollution. This includes the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which controls pollution from ships, and the London Convention and Protocol, which controls marine pollution from dumping of waste at sea.
It is important to highlight that discharge or disposal of marine litter, which includes marine plastics, at sea is generally prohibited by both of these treaties and by the Canadian laws that implement them domestically. While a party to these treaties, the federal government is aware that there is an opportunity for further action to protect our environment, and that is why we are participating in international discussions and studies on the prevention of marine plastic pollution.
Canada also welcomes the initiative of certain multinational companies to phase out microbeads from personal care products, to benefit our shared environment. For example, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association is encouraging companies to take action to prevent plastic pellet losses into the environment.
Canada is also pleased to participate in several international discussions where further action on marine plastics, and marine litter more generally, is being discussed. The United Nations Environment Assembly, for example, adopted a resolution for the oceans and law of the sea, which includes marine litter and microplastics, in June 2014. Marine debris has been proposed as a theme for the 16th meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea taking place later this year.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is also planning a joint meeting on chemicals this June, which will focus on a session on marine litter and the role of sustainable chemistry. In addition to this, Canada is participating, of course, in the G7 discussions on marine litter. There are significant international studies forthcoming as well, which we will be monitoring, and we will be assessing these results.
One such example is the United Nations global study on marine plastic debris and microplastics, which should be complete by 2016. In addition, the joint group of experts on the scientific aspects of marine environment protection recently conducted a study of the sources, the fate, and the effects of microplastics in the environment, which will be published later this year.
All of these international groups recognize the need to avoid duplication of efforts and are exploring different aspects of the issue, and the Government of Canada is working within this framework.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that this government understands that coordinated action between governments is crucial to advancing on environmental initiatives such as microplastics and the subsector, microbeads. This government is, therefore, in constant contact with its partners, other levels of government across the country and beyond our borders, and we are also working to stay on top of the latest research.
There is still more work and more study to be done, but this government is committed to following this issue closely and to taking any future steps that are determined to be warranted.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak today on this issue. Indeed, last Sunday, March 22, was World Water Day. The international theme this year was water and sustainable development.
Water is a vital issue to Canadians, essential to their health and their environment. Water is equally essential for the success of many key economic sectors in Canada, from tourism and recreation to farming, energy, and manufacturing.
Environment Canada coordinates environmental policies and programs and works for a clean, safe, and sustainable environment. It works to ensure we understand water quality and quantity issues that affect Canadians' access to clean water, and it implements regulations to protect our water.
Environment Canada takes the federal lead on water matters, including scientific monitoring and research, programs, regulations, and partnerships. Partnerships are very important, because water is a shared jurisdictional responsibility among federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments and individual citizens. Water crosses boundaries from province to province and between Canada and the United States.
Our government is committed to partnerships with many implicated stakeholders to protect our water resources. Governments in Canada are moving to an integrated ecosystem that is designed to ensure that decision making is co-operative and reflects the interests of many stakeholders. It is also designed to balance a range of goals, including sustainable water and aquatic resource measurement, protection from health threats linked to water quality, protection of aquatic ecosystems and species, and reduction of the health, economic, and safety impacts of floods and droughts.
Our government coordinates and makes many targeted investments in ecosystems like the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Simcoe and southeastern Georgian Bay, and the Lake Winnipeg basin.
Environment Canada leads the federal Great Lakes program, including implementation of the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 2012, the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, 2014, the Great Lakes nutrient initiative, and the Great Lakes action plan, among other specific initiatives.
Through the Lake Simcoe and southeastern Georgian Bay cleanup fund, our government is investing $29 million from 2012 to 2017 to support community-based projects that demonstrate on-the-ground actions to reduce phosphorus discharges from urban and rural sources. This would help to protect and create aquatic habitat and enhance research and monitoring for decision making.
The St. Lawrence action plan, 2011 to 2026, is the latest agreement between Canada and Quebec, intended to conserve and enhance the St. Lawrence River. It builds on four previous agreements implemented since 1988.
Our government and the government of Quebec collaborate on about 50 specific projects, which all aim to achieve three main goals: biodiversity conservation, improved water quality, and sustainable resource use.
Since 2007, through the Lake Winnipeg basin initiative, our government has allocated a total of $36 million toward Environment Canada-led efforts to support the cleanup and long-term sustainability of Lake Winnipeg and its basin. An allocation of $18 million was made toward this in 2012.
Through this initiative, Environment Canada collaborates with other governments and stakeholders on scientific research and monitoring, nutrient management strategies, and financial support for stakeholder-driven, solution-oriented projects aimed at reducing nutrient loads and improving the ecological health of the Lake Winnipeg basin.
The next round of project funding under the Lake Winnipeg basin stewardship fund is being considered right now and will be announced this spring.
In the Atlantic region, through undertakings such as the Gulf of Maine initiative, funded under the national conservation plan, and the Atlantic ecosystem initiatives, significant results are achieved in improving water quality across near-shore and coastal watersheds.
At the heart of federal efforts to protect water quality for Canadians are some 700 scientific and technical professionals at Environment Canada who do field work or conduct leading-edge research about the health of aquatic ecosystems.
Environment Canada's freshwater quality monitoring and surveillance division focuses on regular monitoring, surveillance and reporting on freshwater quality and aquatic ecosystem status and trends. Its activities help to do the following. They help to assess threats to freshwater quality in the aquatic ecosystem areas I have already described. They meet federal commitments related to transboundary watersheds, rivers and lakes crossing international, interprovincial and territorial borders. They support the development, implementation and assessment of federal regulations, including the chemicals management plan, the clean air regulatory agenda, the federal sustainable development strategy and the Canadian environmental sustainability indicators.
Environment Canada has a network of laboratories that deliver world-class accredited science that supports the department's priority water programs. Environment Canada has eight operational units at seven laboratory facilities located in North Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Burlington, Montreal and Moncton.
Through all these efforts, our government is actively protecting the environment and Canadians from harmful pollutants. We understand that our success depends on effective collaboration within Canada among all levels of government, with our local stakeholder partners who have local expertise, with aboriginal governments with traditional knowledge, and between Canada and the United States.
The impacts of microplastics, including microbeads, are being investigated. Our government is closely following new developments on microplastics as they become available. Academic literature is currently identifying that the sources of microplastics are found in some personal care products. These personal care products, like facial scrubs, do contain microbeads.
We are aware of legislative developments in jurisdictions like Ontario and Illinois, planning to ban microbeads in personal care products. We understand that the personal care products industry is also currently exploring opportunities to reduce the use of microbeads.
Canada is actively participating in international discussions on the prevention of marine plastic pollution, notably through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Last summer, residents of Toledo, Ohio had to find drinking water from other sources as their traditional one, Lake Erie, had become unsuitable for human consumption. The culprit was blue green algae, which is thought to be the product of too much fertilizer making its way into the lake, but it highlights how things can take a quick change for the worse and how we should do all we can to protect our precious freshwater resources.
That Toledo was even able to take its water from Lake Erie is remarkable when one considers the history of that area. For those of us who remember, Lake Erie has already been pulled back from the brink once. In fact, the Cuyahoga River that flows into the lake at Cleveland was so thoroughly polluted that it caught fire a number of times. The fire on that river in 1969 became a symbol for how polluted North American waterways had become, especially in the industrial heartland around the Great Lakes.
What is worth noting is that the fire and the images of the similarly polluted Lake Erie became flashpoints that led to clean water legislation and a reversal in fortune for the lake. Unfortunately it is threatened again by too much algae, which is preventable. However, it, along with the other Great Lakes, is also threatened by another preventable pollutant. This is why we are having this debate today.
We are considering a motion that aims to protect our freshwater resources from an entirely man-made problem by adding microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Environmental Protection Act. It is a matter of stating priorities and putting our common good ahead of the convenience these microbeads afford manufacturers of consumer goods.
Although this is the first time I am aware of that we are discussing microbeads in Parliament, if we adopt this motion, we will join other jurisdictions that have already legislated to ban microbeads or are currently seized with this issue. In addition to that, many companies are voluntarily moving away from microbeads in anticipation of some form of ban as good environmental practice or even for public relations purposes. For whatever the reason, the idea of moving past the pollutant is not being fought tooth and nail in every corner of the industries that use it in their products, which is amazing.
I am sure many people are unaware of the existence of microbeads or just how pervasive their use is in products like cosmetics and toothpaste. They are made of polyethylene which is a form of plastic. The beads create a sense of smoothness in the texture of a product or conversely create a grit that is used in products like exfoliants or toothpaste. In most cases, they are being used to replace more natural options such as ground almonds, oatmeal or sea salt. Although the technology to create these has been around for more than four decades, it is in recent years that the use the microbeads has really taken off.
Microbeads also slip effortlessly through our water treatment facilities and find their way into our waters. While it may be possible to develop filtration technology to target this pollutant, the option is both theoretical and costly, while placing the responsibility on society and excusing those producers that benefit from the convenience of microplastics for their products. It is an obvious choice between the options and I would hope others in the House would see it in the same way.
It is important to remove these plastics from our waters because they make their way into life forms as they float around. The plastic alone is unhealthy, but the problem does not end there. Once ingested, microbeads can cause asphyxiation or blockage of organs. In addition to that, microbeads can be a pollution magnifier. Because they are made of plastic, they attract chemical pollutants, which can in turn unknowingly be ingested by a variety of marine life. This adds to the buildup of pollutants in the food chain which many people are exposed to, especially those who eat fish from polluted waters.
The bad news is that microbeads can already be found in high concentrations in the Great Lakes. The problem is most noticeable downstream from major cities and in the sediments of the St. Lawrence River.
The good news is that there is already momentum behind the notion of moving past microbeads for cosmetic uses, and although we are later than some to the party, we are beginning the process of catching up today.
Internationally, the Netherlands is the leader on this front, and it will have cosmetics that are microbead-free by the end of next year. It is forcing industry's hand, which is the role the government should take in these instances.
In North America, Illinois has been the first to ban the manufacture or sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Other state legislatures—California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and New Jersey—are considering legislation of their own.
In addition to that, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which is a binational coalition of more than 100 mayors, is calling for action on microbeads by 2015.
For its part, the cosmetics industry is not fighting back. Cosmetic leaders such as The Body Shop, Johnson & Johnson, Lush Cosmetics, and Colgate have seen that a ban is coming, have recognized the public relations benefit that comes from voluntarily moving away from microbeads, and have all stated their intention to do just that.
In fact, at least 21 companies around the world have made some level of commitment to phase out microbeads in their products, which is unbelievable. They are seeing what the future holds.
New Democrats are asking the government today to avoid the mishmash approach we are seeing in the United States and to take advantage of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to move Canada ahead as a whole on this front. By taking immediate action and listing microbeads as toxic under the EPA, we could then move to regulate, phase out, and eventually eliminate the use of microbeads in products used or produced in Canada.
Like all Canadians, we want a clean and healthy environment and the benefits that flow from that. This is especially important for our recreational fishing industry and for the safety of fish and other aquatic species most affected by the plastic.
As a member with a constituency that touches two of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Lake Huron, I feel it is important to take part in this debate today.
The Great Lakes are among Canada's finest treasures and, along with the St. Lawrence River, amount to the original highway used by our ancestors to explore the continent. It would be a shame and a travesty to dismiss this problem and allow these magnificent waters to become more polluted when the solution is so entirely simple.
We must protect the gains that were made as we came to realize the negative effects that industrialization, especially chemicals, were placing on these lakes, which contain a full 21% of the surface fresh water in the world. To do anything less would be short-sighted and cynical.
While it is true that there are beneficial uses for polyethylene microbeads in areas such as biomedical and health research, surely we can find a solution that will make room for those uses without allowing our freshwater resources to be overrun with this pollutant.
Many of us have children and grandchildren, of which I have two, and believe it is incumbent on us to take the long view in this debate for their benefit. We are trusted as stewards. We must remember that we inherited this bounty and are charged with handing it off in similar or even better shape. That is why the more we understand, the more we are compelled to act.
In terms of industry, we can see that there is a willingness to work with government on this issue, which is not always so easily found. Since there are already options that were used in the past, a replacement for microbeads is not a mystery that must be unravelled as much as a solution that can be revisited. It makes so much sense to move past these items of convenience. It will be only through short-sightedness or self-interest that no movement is made on this front as quickly as possible.
Many members are outdoor sports enthusiasts, even on that side of the House. If nothing else, I will appeal to those members about the fish and game they put on their plates. Who among us would want to eat food that has been contaminated by plastics that attract and hold on to additional chemicals in the water? I know I would not.
The answer is simple enough. We can bring Canada to the forefront on this issue by listing microbeads under the Environmental Protection Act and moving on to the next challenge.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to support the NDP opposition day motion to designate microbead plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
As people will know from following the debate, microbeads were originally found in cleansers, and about 10 years ago they moved into a wide variety of personal care products.
What is the problem with them? The government's side does not seem to be convinced that there is any science or evidence that there is a problem here. However, microplastics absorb pollutants in the water, such as DDT, PAH, and PCBs. When those toxins are absorbed by the microplastics, they tend to bioaccumulate in the food chain. That means that they become more concentrated as they work their way up the food chain.
Many colleagues here have talked about the concentrations of these microbead plastics in the Great Lakes. I want to talk about the situation on the west coast, since I represent a southern Vancouver Island riding.
Last year Dr. Peter Ross, who now works at the Vancouver Aquarium, released his research on concentration of microbead plastics on the Pacific coast. He took 34 water samples from the Salish Sea around Vancouver and around Victoria, as well as offshore and at the north end of Vancouver Island. His findings were really quite shocking.
Peter Ross is a much-cited research scientist. He was formerly employed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as the director of its Pacific Ocean pollution unit. What happened in 2012 was that the Conservative government decided to completely eliminate the capacity of the Canadian federal government to check for pollution on the west coast. Not only was Peter Ross laid off, but all of the other eight members of the west coast ocean pollution unit were laid off as well, meaning that we now have no ability as a federal government to check for the impacts of these microbead plastics that the government members are standing and asking for evidence about. The government eliminated the ability to collect that evidence in 2012, and I think it was deliberate.
Since then the Vancouver Aquarium, which is a private foundation, has hired Peter Ross and is funding its own ocean pollution studies because, as an aquarium that engages in public education, it thinks that this is essential work that somebody has to pick up now that the federal government has dropped the ball.
What did Peter Ross find? It is actually quite shocking.
In the sample that had the highest concentration of these microbead plastics, he found 9,180 particles per cubic metre of water. The lowest he found, over 100 kilometres offshore of Vancouver Island, was 8, so even far offshore, there were still microbead plastics in the ocean. In the Strait of Georgia, the Salish Sea, he found an average of 3,210 particles per cubic metre.
Why am I concerned about that? Let me talk in very simple terms about how it works around Vancouver Island.
Plankton ingest the particles. The plankton are eaten by herring. The herring are eaten by salmon. The salmon are eaten by the orcas. People will know that I have been advocating for two years to have an action plan to protect the southern resident killer whales off of Vancouver Island, so this is part of the problem. Ocean pollution and microbead plastics are part of the problem in trying to ensure the survival of the orcas.
Am I being an alarmist? The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says that there is a 50% chance of extinction of the southern resident killer whales by the end of this century. There is a 50% chance, and that is Fisheries and Oceans' own figure.
Therefore, what are we doing? The government designated the southern resident killer whales as “endangered” in 2003. That was 12 years ago. Then it took both the Liberals and Conservatives until March of 2014 to produce a draft action plan. It was not an action plan, but a draft action plan. Last March, over a year ago, they asked stakeholders who are concerned about the fate of the southern resident killer whales and this problem of pollution, which is one of the large parts of the problem, to make comments. We have heard nothing from the government since then.
It is a year later, and the last statement I got in a letter from the minister said that in the spring of 2015 the government would be talking to those who submitted comments. I know that it does not feel like spring here in Ottawa, but I am from Vancouver Island and we are well into spring there, so I convened my own meeting of the stakeholders last Friday night. I brought them together and asked them what they told the federal government needed to be done and what all of us can do at the local level to try to get started on an action plan. Members will be hearing more about that later.
It was very successful in that we had whale researchers, whale scientists, pollution experts, the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society, education experts, and the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition. We had the Dogwood Initiative. We had the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Members get the idea of who was in the room.
Everyone recognizes that we have a crisis with the southern resident killer whales. Everyone, even the federal government, recognizes the crisis. The problem is that we do not get any action. With the Department of the Environment facing cuts of up to 30% in this next budget round, it is very difficult to see how it is going to take the kinds of actions necessary to ensure the survival of the southern resident killer whales.
There has been some good news, and I want to address that, because sometimes people get overly optimistic. We have had three new calves born to southern resident killer whales. One of those, though, did not survive, and the mother, a breeding female, also died. Why did they die? The initial tests on the whales indicated that they starved to death. Why did they starve to death? There is a problem with the food supply in chinook salmon. There is also a problem with microbead plastics in that when they are ingested by marine animals, they think they are full, when they are getting no nutrition. We have a serious and direct connection between microbead plastics and the problems we are facing with southern resident killer whales. Therefore, we focus on the good news of calves being born.
Since 1998, 39 orca calves have been born and survived. That sounds pretty good, except that since 1998, 61 orcas have gone missing or have died. We are now down to a total of 79 southern resident killer whales. As I said, Fisheries and Oceans officials are themselves admitting that there is a 50% chance of the extinction of these iconic beings on the south coast of the island. What can we do about that?
In October 2013, I put a motion before the House to implement a recovery strategy for the southern resident killer whales. The motion said that we need continuing support for research and monitoring programs. That is what is in the federal government's draft plan. I am not arguing with that part. We need to monitor things like the pollution microbead plastics are causing. However, that is all that is in the government's draft plan.
The second part of my plan, which I worked out with stakeholders, was to implement programs to decrease the pollution in the Salish Sea. One of the ways is to eliminate the microbead plastics. This motion applies very directly to the strategy we need to save the southern resident killer whales. In addition to that, we called for a ban on cosmetic pesticide use in home gardens. I was very proud, when I sat on the city council in Esquimalt, before I came here, that we did this in our municipality. We eliminated the cosmetic use of all of those, and what happened was very interesting. The retailers are stopping the stocking of those toxic chemicals people were using on their yards.
One of my favourite things that happened while we were doing this campaign was that my neighbour came over and asked about all the grass that was growing between the bricks. We lived in a townhouse. He said that he thought we would go together and buy some pesticides, and then he started talking slowly and said, “I think I am talking to the wrong person”, because I had introduced the motion to get rid of the cosmetic use of pesticides. I said to him that he should be talking to his pregnant wife. I asked if he really wanted to put pesticides down on his driveway that his kid would be crawling on. We had a very good conversation about what people can do themselves.
While we are waiting for the current government to take some action to ban microbead plastics, consumers can have a look at the products they are buying, and they can start favouring those companies that have already phased out the use of microbead plastics.
In my strategy, we also called for an expansion of the chemical registry list to include all of those kinds of pollutants that are harmful to the southern resident killer whales.
As the Speaker knows, I could go on for a long time here, because I think this is very urgent, and this opposition day motion feeds into what I have been trying to get action on from the government.
The last two parts of my strategy dealt with noise levels. Whales are easily disturbed by noise when they are trying to feed, because they use sonar to track their food sources.
The last part deals with measures to improve the chinook stocks, because for some reason, the orcas around southern Vancouver Island are very fussy eaters, and they prefer chinook, and so do most of the people. What we need to do is not fight over the last fish with the whales; we need to make sure that we take action to increase those fish stocks and take action, as with this motion, to make sure that those fish stocks do not include the toxins that bioaccumulate from microbead plastics.
I am very proud to stand in support of this motion today. I see it as a part of what we must do to protect the environmental heritage for all of those to come in Canada, and in particular, to protect against the extinction of southern resident killer whales.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of this motion.
The motion before us gives me the opportunity to highlight that the government has made great investments in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. Since 2006, we have made major investments in the chemicals management plan, an approach that has made Canada a global leader in the assessment and management of the environmental and health effects of chemicals.
Most recently, in 2011, the government announced renewed funding of $506 million for the chemicals management plan. I think I should reiterate that, because the opposition keeps saying that we are not investing anything in environmental issues. Again, that is $506 million for the chemicals management plan. This investment supports the ongoing review of the 4,300 industrial chemicals identified as priorities for assessment.
Before I go any further, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
We expect to complete this review, that is to say, we expect to have considered the potential health risks or environmental effects of all 4,300 substances by 2020. That is consistent with Canada's commitments in global chemicals management. This plan has been recognized by non-governmental organizations, industrial associations, and international partners as reasonable, balanced, and above all, successful.
Under the chemicals management plan, we are addressing such high-profile substances as BPA and phthalates. Furthermore, in 2007, the government announced the food and consumer safety action plan, which has likewise made Canada a recognized leader in the identification and management of human health risks from products like the food, cosmetics, and consumer products we all use every day.
Our focus is on ensuring that industry takes seriously its responsibilities to actively prevent dangers to human health and safety, on providing for targeted oversight of the marketplace to help us identify emerging health risks early, and on equipping the government to respond quickly when risks are identified.
Under these programs, we have continued to build Canada's cosmetic regulatory system into one of the most stringent and effective systems anywhere in the world. The chemicals management plan has led to the addition of 26 substances to the cosmetic ingredient hot list, which is a list of substances that are prohibited or regulated in cosmetics. The chemicals management plan has also resulted in two existing hot list items being amended to be even more protective of the health of Canadians.
I should add that the hot list is a science-based document that is reviewed and updated as new scientific data becomes available. The hot list serves to keep the cosmetics industry aware of new substances Health Canada considers inappropriate for cosmetic use or that require hazardous labelling.
While Environment Canada is the department charged with understanding and managing the effects chemicals may have on the environment in Canada, Health Canada is the department that evaluates human health impacts. To figure out whether a chemical can have negative effects on the user's health when it is used in a cosmetic, the department carefully considers both the science concerning the potential health effects of the chemical and the ways in which a person may be exposed. For most cosmetics, the main source of exposure is usually through the skin.
Health Canada scientists are constantly reviewing the emerging science and international regulatory actions. At this point, the department does not believe that there is evidence indicating that the kind of plastics used to make microbeads are harmful to human health as they are currently used in cosmetics.
Health Canada will continue to monitor this emerging issue, and certainly if a risk to human health is identified, the department will take action to address it.
Everyone who sells cosmetics in Canada is required to notify Health Canada of each cosmetic sold in the country within 10 days of the first sale. This notification must include details concerning the ingredients. The department must use that information to help to verify that cosmetics sold in Canada meet all of the legislative and regulatory requirements set out in the hot list and the cosmetic regulations.
On top of that, the cosmetic regulations also require manufacturers or importers to disclose all ingredients on the label. People looking to avoid plastic microbeads could check the labels of products that have beads or grit, such as exfoliating scrubs or face and body washes, and then avoid those that contain polyethylene or polypropylene, or any of their ingredients.
While these substances are not always used in microbead form, they are the substances most often used to make microbeads. These substances also have other known uses in cosmetics, including as binding and bulking agents, stabilizers, film formers and skin conditioning agents. If they are in the product, they have to be on the label.
Furthermore, many cosmetic companies have already voluntarily eliminated the use of microbeads in their products or they have already announced that they will be phasing them out of their product lines. With that, I would like to add that I was searching this morning and recognized that Crest, one of the major toothpaste producers, will be eliminating microbeads from its products in 2016. That is one way to recognize that companies themselves are eliminating an ingredient without regulatory requirement.
The requirements that apply to cosmetics provide a high level of safety for Canadian consumers and allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products that they purchase.
Our government, as members can see from my speech, has done a lot to ensure that we put the safety of Canadians first and foremost.