Canada: Toronto Joins Rush to Regulate “Toxic” Chemicals

Copyright 2008, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on Environmental Law, December 2008

On December 3, 2008, the City of Toronto became the first municipal jurisdiction within Canada to require businesses to disclose their release and use of chemicals. The disclosure requirement, also known as a community right to know by-law, goes into effect on January 1, 2010.

The by-law is akin to the federal National Pollutant Release Inventory, which required 8,500 businesses in 2007 to report on the emission of chemical substances in the course of business operations. However, only 3% of businesses located in Toronto are captured by the federal legislation, as the focus of that law is on large businesses releasing large amounts of chemicals. The City of Toronto by-law will affect businesses of all sizes, and will impose mandatory disclosure requirements on upwards of 5,000 to 7,000 businesses, not only for the emission, but also for the use of any of the 25 priority substances listed in the by-law. Similar disclosure requirements exist in many other jurisdictions outside of Canada, including several U.S. cities such as New York.

At present, the Toronto priority substances list is made up of those chemicals that are considered the most harmful substances frequently used by businesses, such as cadmium, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. The by-law establishes reporting thresholds for the use of a priority substance. Where a threshold is met, businesses are required to submit an annual report by the end of June in each year to Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, covering both the quantities of each substance released and the quantities of each substance used throughout the previous calendar year. The priority substance reporting thresholds are on the scale of a mere 100 kg per year and, in some cases, are even less. The by-law does not impose restrictions on the release of substances, instead purporting to encourage voluntary reduction through negative publicity.

According to the Toronto Board of Health, the by-law will be implemented over four years by applying the disclosure requirements to different business sectors in three phases. Phase One businesses will be required to collect chemical use and release data starting in 2010, with the first report being submitted to the City of Toronto in 2011. Phase One businesses are:

  • food and beverage manufacturing;
  • printing and publishing;
  • chemical manufacturing;
  • wood industries;
  • power generation; and
  • waste water treatment facilities.

Phase Two businesses must begin collecting data in 2011 and make their first report in June of 2012. Phase Two businesses are:

  • chemical wholesale;
  • waste management and remediation services;
  • medical and diagnostic laboratories;
  • dry cleaning and laundry services;
  • automotive repair and maintenance; and
  • funeral services.

Lastly, Phase Three businesses begin collecting data in 2012 and submit their first report in 2013. Phase Three includes all remaining businesses that fall under the umbrella of the by-law. Thus all businesses subject to the disclosure requirements must report on their use and release of priority substances by 2013. General exemptions from the disclosure requirements apply to a handful of business sectors that may use one or more of the priority substances, such as facilities engaged solely in retail sales.

The information disclosed by businesses will be made available to the public via a searchable Internet database maintained by the City of Toronto, which will also include map-based displays of chemical use and emissions. Privacy legislation may allow for withholding some information from dissemination to the public, but businesses should be aware that the by-law obliges businesses to identify confidential, proprietary, or other information that is legally exempt from disclosure. Regardless of any privacy exemption, businesses must still prepare and submit a report where the reporting threshold of a priority substance is met.

Non-compliance with the disclosure requirements is a punishable offence subject to a range of possible penalties that are capped at a maximum of C$100,000 for the third or subsequent offences. The by-law also opens businesses to potential inspections by the City of Toronto for the purpose of determining compliance.

The City of Toronto initiative comes closely on the heels of the Province of Ontario's announcement in late August 2008 that it is considering a "Toxic Reduction Strategy" that will also include new requirements for businesses to disclose and reduce their use of chemicals. Much like the City of Toronto by-law, Ontario plans to impose reporting requirements on facilities using "toxic substances" and to publicly disclose that information through the Internet. Additionally, Ontario is proposing legislation that requires facilities to formulate "toxic reduction plans", which may also be disclosed to the public. See

Toronto businesses should now be wary of the multiple jurisdictional layers of disclosure requirements attached to the use and release of chemicals. The myriad disclosure requirements will form a complicated and overlapping system that businesses will need to navigate. Unfortunately, compliance will not be a straightforward task given that the disclosure requirements from one jurisdiction to the next will vary with respect to the chemicals at issue and the thresholds for reporting.

The move by the City of Toronto may encourage other Canadian municipalities to follow suit in creating their own community right to know by-laws. For all businesses, particularly those that have facilities in multiple Ontario municipal jurisdictions, the disclosure requirements for the use and release of chemical substances are likely to become more onerous over time as more municipalities and provinces join the bandwagon to impose chemical disclosure requirements on Canadian businesses.

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

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
27 Oct 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Please join members of the Blakes Commercial Real Estate group as they discuss five key provisions of a commercial real estate purchase agreement that are often the subject of much negotiation but are sometimes misunderstood.

1 Nov 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

What is the emotional culture of your organization?

Every organization and workplace has an emotional culture that can have an impact on everything from employee performance to customer or client satisfaction.

3 Nov 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Join leading lawyers from the Blakes Pensions, Benefits & Executive Compensation group as they discuss recent updates and legal developments in pension and employee benefits law as well as strategies to identify and minimize common risks.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
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).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.