TORONTO, June 3, 2009 – A law aimed at protecting the health of people in Ontario by reducing harmful toxic substances doesn’t go far enough, says a top nursing group.
Bill 167, the Toxics Reduction Act, passed today without the crucial amendments the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and other organizations say are needed to guarantee families and individuals safe working and living environments.
When the government announced its legislation back in April, RNAO welcomed the bill, but warned that changes would be required to ensure the bill’s effectiveness in coaxing businesses to reduce their reliance on harmful and toxic substances. Since that announcement, an all-party committee reviewing the legislation has heard from many groups, including RNAO, making calls to strengthen the legislation.
“We recommended the government set aggressive targets to reduce toxic chemicals, mandatory substitution where safer alternatives exist, and the creation of an institute to support business and community to reach their reduction goals,” says RNAO President Wendy Fucile. “Since the bill is modeled on the successful Massachusetts toxics program, the government's own expert panel advised including key features of that program, such as targets and an institute. We don’t understand why this advice was ignored.”
We were expecting far more up-front to deal seriously with the huge quantities of toxic substances companies use, create and release in their manufacturing processes. At this point, the bill remains all promise when what’s needed is urgent action,” adds Fucile.
RNAO’s Executive Director Doris Grinspun says nurses are extremely disappointed because Ontario is one of the worst offenders when it comes to toxic pollution, and these releases are linked in the scientific literature to cancer, birth defects, and medical conditions such as Parkinson’s. “People’s health is at stake and they’re demanding action from our government. We can’t afford to waste any more time on this critical health issue, we need immediate government action.”
Even though the legislation is expected to be proclaimed into law this week, Grinspun says RNAO will be demanding a transparent process with public input to deliver strong regulations to fill the gaps. “Though we are disappointed with the legislation, we will work very hard with government on the regulations to roll back this toxic tide and protect the public.”
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.-30-