In case you missed it a few weeks back, the federal government
made an unexpected announcement just days before the
federal election campaign was announced: it intends to ban the use
of microbead products in personal care products.
So how will it work? The government proposes publishing an Order
to add microbeads to the List of Toxic Substances under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c33
("CEPA"). This will in effect allow the federal
government to regulate, and eventually ban, the release of
microbeads into the environment.
The government also plans to publish a notice of intent to
develop regulations under CEPA preventing the manufacture, sale,
import, and offer for sale of personal care products containing
Microbeads are currently used in a vast range of personal care
products—from face washes to toothpaste to exfoliants. The
problem is that they are so tiny that when they are washed down the
drain, they slip through water filtration systems and end up in
waterways. There they are often mistaken for food and consumed by
fish and other aquatic organisms. They also have a tendency to
absorb and concentrate pollutants, such as pesticides. This means
that they can act as a vehicle for the introduction and
accumulation of these toxic substances into the food system when
they are consumed by fish, which are in turn caught and consumed by
humans, potentially affecting human health.
There is some indication that microbeads are a particular
problem in the Great Lakes, inspiring some US states in the region
to pass bans, beginning with Illinois in June 2014. Several additional
states have since passed bans or have such legislation pending.
While there is no federal-level ban in the US, and there are some
concerns as to the efficacy of state bans that
have been enacted or are proposed, momentum has been building south
of the border towards banning microbeads, making the announcement
of the Canadian initiative both timely and important.
The federal response does not, unfortunately, address the
overarching issue of microplastics—which are small particles
of plastic often found in waterways and of which microbeads are a
subset. Microplastics, the by-products of plastic that has
partially broken down or has become dislodged from clothing in the
wash or used in industrial processes, are increasingly identified as an overlooked, but
equally vexing issue for Canadian waterways (and in the Great Lakes
Nevertheless, the announcement is certainly welcome news.
Hopefully it will inspire product manufacturers to proactively find
ways to eliminate microbeads from their products. Some producers,
such as Colgate-Palmolive, have already done so and others, such as
Proctor & Gamble, have made commitments to phase them out.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).