October 8, 2009
On September 18, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released its first draft regulation under the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009. We need your help to keep the focus on health, as there is considerable pressure to further weaken an already weak draft. We need the regulation strengthened, not weakened. The government has extended the deadline for comments to November 2, 2009, but time is running out. Many in government would like to give us strong regulations, but they need our support. Please act NOW. Below we tell you how.
The Toxics Reduction Act has the potential to dramatically increase public knowledge about toxics in the environment, in the workplace, and in consumer products. It could also sharply reduce exposure to toxics, and this is important because Ontario is one of the very worst releasers of toxics in North America. As RNs we know that exposure to toxics is associated with many different illnesses and our greatest concern is for children. These illnesses include: cancer; learning, developmental and behavioural disabilities; impaired endocrine function; birth defects; and respiratory problems, such as asthma.
RNAO is disappointed that the Act does not go far enough, but we continue to work with our partners to rectify omissions by advocating for supporting regulations and program commitments. The Act is modeled on Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, which took a unique approach: it required toxic emitters to report on their use and release of toxics, and to write toxics reduction plans. There was no legal obligation to implement those plans, but with the support of a new, independent Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), firms implemented best practices, resulting in large drops in toxic releases. Firms also on average saved money.
Missing from the Ontario Act are key elements from the Massachusetts legislation: aggressive targets for reductions in use and release of toxics; and an independent institute (e.g., a TURI). RNAO is also disappointed that the Act does not require mandatory substitution of toxics by chemicals known to be safer.
We may be disappointed in the Act, but there remains for a last chance for improvement via regulation. Now is the time.
Changes must occur in two key areas:
A guarantee of public right to know about toxics in the environment, in the workplace and in consumer products. This requires provisions to collect and make accessible to communities all the necessary information on the use, creation and release of toxics.
This requires much greater inclusiveness in reporting: only two industries are included (manufacturing and mineral processing); reporting thresholds are so high they exclude all but the very largest emitters and they exclude most emissions; only a very limited number of toxics are reported in the first phase; and there is not yet a provision to add new toxics.
Adding the mechanisms to make the legislation effective, including provincial targets, support to communities and firms for transition, and regulatory measures to propel toxics reduction (such as requirements to consider all toxics reduction options and mandatory substitution).
Let’s make the Act achieve its potential and dramatically change the way toxics are handled in Ontario, for the sake of our health and future generations. Ontarians overwhelmingly support strong action to reduce toxics, but the law, as now worded, falls short. RNs can make a difference. Now is the time for RNs to speak loudly with one voice for strong toxics reduction legislation.
Please send a message to Premier Dalton McGuinty and to Environment Minister John Gerretsen urging them to strengthen the draft regulation under the Toxics Reduction Act. Simply go to the link below, fill out the fields, personalize the letter as you like, and send. You do not need to insert your name into the letter itself. Copies will go to your own MPP and to the Environmental Registry, so that the Ministry of the Environment has a copy as well. THANK YOU!!! The final deadline is November 2, 2009, but early is better.