Gatineau, QC – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, has announced the publication of the draft State of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Report.
PFAS, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals”, are a large group of extremely persistent human-made substances used in a wide range of everyday products, such as food packaging, non-stick cookware, clothing, and cosmetics. They are also used in industrial products and specialized applications including firefighting foams, lubricants, and oil/water repellants. PFAS are found nearly everywhere in the environment, including in the air, groundwater, oceans, lakes, rivers, and soils, as well as in wastewater, landfill leachate, sewage sludge, and contaminated sites worldwide.
Canada has previously prohibited the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, and import of three subgroups of PFAS, with limited exemptions. The government is also taking action to protect firefighters, reduce Canadians’ exposure to PFAS in drinking water, and manage PFAS in biosolids. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, efforts are underway to reduce releases of these substances into the Great Lakes. Canada has also nominated the long chain perfluorocarboxylic acids group for addition to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The report is a draft assessment of the potential risks of these substances to the environment and human health. It proposes concluding that all substances in the class of PFAS have the potential to cause harm to both the environment and human health. The Government of Canada is working diligently to ensure that the final report is completed as soon as possible to continue to safeguard the health and environment of Canada.
Several options to reduce environmental and human exposure will be considered following review of public comments and finalization of the report, including recommendation for additions to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and controls for PFAS in firefighting foams. Information will also be gathered to identify options for minimizing exposure from other sources and products. Based on the precautionary approach, the goal would be to limit exposure, to the extent possible.
In 2021, the Government announced its intention to address the broad class of PFAS in recognition of scientific evidence that suggests that all PFAS may be associated with environmental and/or human health effects. This assessment report is in an important step toward deciding whether to address these chemicals as a class under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
This process will need to follow the appropriate steps diligently. Should the final report confirm that PFAS may pose risks to the environment and health, the completion of this work would lead to swift action to address more than 4,700 substances, rather than treating them individually. Canada and the European Union are the first jurisdictions in the world to propose class management of PFAS.
Canadians and stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft report and risk management scope and provide information that would help inform the development of the final report, until July 19.
“It is a matter of concern that PFAS contamination is present throughout Canada and is not limited to a few sources and regions. Based on emerging science and what is known about well-studied PFAS, a proactive and precautionary approach is needed to help address these substances as a class. Our priority must be the continued protection of the health of Canadians and the environment.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 substances.
- Potential adverse effects associated with PFAS include effects on the liver, kidney, thyroid, immune system, nervous system, metabolism and bodyweight, and reproduction and development.
- In wildlife, PFAS have been shown to cause toxicity to the immune and nervous systems, and general effects on growth, reproduction, and development.
- Science has shown some PFAS are readily absorbed into the body and can accumulate and persist in the body for years.
- Humans can be exposed to PFAS from various sources, such as food and products available to consumers, including food packaging, textiles, and cosmetics, as well as through air, dust, and drinking water.
- As an example of actions that the Government of Canada is taking to reduce PFAS in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is signaling its intent to implement an interim standard for PFAS in biosolids imported and sold as commercial fertilizer. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will engage provinces, industry, producer organizations, and other stakeholders on its approach over the summer months.