2006 Fowler Election Platform – Pesticides


as originally posted on my Election Website

Some of what I’ve had to say in the past

Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 16:17:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: Proposed Topic
To: newstalk1290today@cjbk.com

There’s another great article (in a series of such) about airline safety in today’s (Saturday) Toronto Star. Even though I’m not an airline commuter, I find these fascinating. You might want to consider doing a segment on it. You can read all of the articles online at thestarDOTcaSLASHairlines (are you ever going to explain why CJBK’s email server no longer accepts emails that contain URLs?)

Of equal interest to me, is the larger and mostly ignored issue about our inability to depend on politicians and the regulatory agencies that they have foisted upon us. My submission to City Council with respect to the proposed pesticide bylaw, and my support of it, is based upon the Precautionary Principle. These articles about airline safety only serve to underscore the validity of that perspective.

Whether it’s Health Canada, or Transport Canada, etc., or media posturing by the elected officials themselves, people have to accept the personal responsibility to question the “facts” that are presented to them.


Date: Tue, 30 May 2006 16:35:37 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: Proposed Pesticide Bylaw – FYI – Part 2
To: lcap@londoncoalitionagainstpesticides.org

In addition to my 2006/05/27 email to ETC which I copied to you and which was an Added Communication in last night’s agenda.

Here is Part Two which appeared in Saturday’s paper, for those of you who may have missed it.

Coming to terms with perils of non-stick products
by Martin Mittelstaedt; Toronto Globe & Mail; 2006/05/29

[This is Part 2; for Part 1, see 20060527_Globe and Mail]

Teflon and Scotchgard are among the best-known brand names in the world, and have been used in billions of dollars of non-stick and stain-resistant consumer products.

Their use is so widespread, there probably isn’t a person in North America who hasn’t eaten a meal cooked on a non-stick pan, worn stain-resistant or water-repellant clothing, or had fast food served on a greaseproof wrapper.

But after nearly five decades of extensive consumer and industrial use, some of the chemicals behind the popular brand names have been linked to cancers and even deaths in laboratory animals, and Environment Canada is concerned about their impact on wildlife.

Some environmental groups are comparing the chemicals to DDT, the pesticide that was the poster child for the environmental movement during the 1960s before it was banned. But while DDT eventually breaks down into less-harmful substances, these new chemicals don’t appear to degrade under any known biological process.

“A good way to think about it is as the DDT of this millennium,” said Richard Wiles, vice-president of Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based environmental organization that was one of the first to question the safety of the chemicals. “The fact that they last forever really raises the stakes. Even DDT goes away after decades or centuries.”

DuPont Co. said its Teflon frying pans and other kitchenware are safe if used properly.

Health Canada says human exposures to the chemicals aren’t high enough to be a concern.

“When you’re using the cookware as it’s intended to be used, at the temperatures it’s intended to be used, it’s perfectly safe,” said David Boothe, DuPont’s global manager for such products as Teflon.

The chemicals are part of a broad family of substances known as perfluorochemicals, which use the elements fluorine and carbon to make non-stick and stain-resistant coatings. Perfluorochemicals have a molecular structure that prevents them from mixing well with water or oil, which is why they are so useful in making such consumer items as French fry wrappers that stop grease and raincoats that shed water.

Scientists in the United States have zeroed in on two members of this chemical family as particularly worrisome: perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA for short, and perfluorooctanyl sulfonate, or PFOS. They have been used to make some of the world’s most-famous brand names, including Teflon and Scotchgard.

Environment Canada has concluded that PFOS levels have reached such high levels in animals like polar bears, which have been found to have more than 4,000 parts per billion in their livers, that they “could be harmed by current exposures.”

Environmentalists say Health Canada did not use the same conservative safety protocol that Environment Canada applied to animals. Using Environment Canada’s approach to polar bears, adults and children in Canada would have been deemed to have had excessive exposures and would need to have lower levels to be certain that no health problems are occurring.

Some environmentalists contend that the differing approaches have caused a situation in which chemical safety calculations for wildlife are far more rigorous than those for humans.

“The assessments are more protective of polar bears than human children,” said Rich Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto activist organization.

In an ironic turn for chemicals that are used to make non-stick products, both PFOS and PFOA have been found to have an extreme affinity to stick to living things and, once absorbed, are incredibly hard to shed, often taking decades to be excreted.

“We’ve never seen them degrade under any relevant environmental conditions,” said Scott Mabury, a chemistry professor at the University of Toronto. “I often say they redefine persistence as we know it.”

The chemicals are found in nearly all North Americans and in almost every wildlife species scientists have tested. Health Canada scientists checking PFOS levels in humans found them in every one of 56 Canadian volunteers tested, according to a paper published in 2004.

Because the chemicals aren’t made in Canada, the widespread human exposure suggests that small amounts of PFOS are breaking off of consumer goods and being absorbed by people and animals, although scientists don’t know exactly how this is occurring.

The first public inkling that the chemicals might pose a danger emerged in May of 2000, when 3M unexpectedly announced that after 40 years of production, it was phasing out PFOS, used in Scotchgard, its well-known stain and water repellant. The company also said it would stop making PFOA, which has a similar chemical structure and is also used to make non-stick, stain-resistant coatings.

In explaining the action, 3M said it was because PFOS was starting to be found in the environment at low levels. Nonetheless, it said its products were safe and that “all existing scientific knowledge” indicated exposure at the levels being detected wasn’t an environmental or human health hazard.

Mr. Wiles’s group began studying perfluorochemicals after 3M’s announcement.

“It just seemed to us not plausible that a company would drop its signature product or chemical, if there weren’t a really big problem right in plain sight,” Mr. Wiles said.

The same day 3M made its announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency quietly notified Environment Canada and other governments around the world that the company acted because PFOS “appears to combine persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.”

Bioaccumulation is the tendency for harmful chemicals to become more concentrated in living things higher up on the food chain.

The EPA notice was based in part on laboratory tests, conducted for 3M, that indicated the chemical killed some rat pups born to mothers that were themselves exposed in utero. The EPA noted that “it is very unusual to see such second-generation effects,” which suggest that exposures are more dangerous during fetal development than they are to adults.

The effects had been generated by relatively small daily doses — about half a part per million, or the equivalent of a half kernel of corn in about 10 bushel baskets filled with the grain.

In January, the EPA announced an agreement with DuPont Co. and seven other companies to cut PFOA emissions from their plants and products by 95 per cent by 2010, and work toward complete elimination by 2015.

Shortly after this announcement, an EPA panel determined that PFOA was a likely human carcinogen, although earlier testing had found that it also had multiple-generation effects in rats, with pups of exposed mothers being “found dead or presumed cannibalized,” according to one study sponsored by 3M.

This study is part of a growing body of research conducted by scientists around the world. Eleven studies have shown that PFOA or related chemicals damage the thyroid gland. Another five studies have shown that PFOA alters male reproductive hormones. Animal tests have also linked it to breast, testicular, liver and pancreatic cancers or tumours.

Among its many uses, PFOA is a processing aid involved in making Teflon, although DuPont has taken pains to publicize to consumers that pots and pans coated with its well-known product don’t contain the chemical.

However, DuPont faces a class-action lawsuit, filed in U.S. Federal Court in Des Moines, Iowa, alleging that Teflon cookware releases PFOA and other harmful chemicals if heated to high temperatures. Pans would have to be left on an element at high heat for about four or five minutes to reach 680 degrees F, the temperatures cited for adverse effects in the lawsuit. That’s about three times higher than the temperature at which water boils and is a level at which food would be charred.

For environmentalists, the corporate efforts to phase out PFOA and the ending of PFOS production are viewed as a sign of the dangers the chemicals posed.

“It is hugely significant that industry agreed to do this,” Mr. Wiles said. “They don’t agree to do things like this . . . unless they recognized there was a huge environmental and public health problem with these chemicals.”

Environment Canada hasn’t taken action against PFOS because 3M has agreed to drop the chemical, although it has placed a temporary import prohibition on four newly developed varieties of stain-resistant coatings, known as fluorotelomers, that it feared could break down into PFOA and related compounds.

The government also plans to impose reductions on PFOA along the lines of the EPA agreement, with an announcement expected as early as next month.

Citing commercial confidentiality, Environment Canada would not identify the companies whose chemicals have been banned from entering the country, other than to say they are among the eight manufacturers covered by the EPA’s agreement on PFOA. DuPont makes two of the fluorotelomers, which are available for use in the United States.

Canadian regulators didn’t catch PFOS and PFOA as possible hazards because they were grandfathered from in-depth safety assessments when the country adopted comprehensive pollution legislation in 1988. The law exempted chemicals then in use from detailed safety reviews, although it placed more scrutiny on new substances. The chemicals escaped scrutiny in the United States because of similar regulatory gaps.

“These chemicals were missed,” said Derek Muir, an Environment Canada research scientist. “That was a mistake.”

Canada is trying to close this regulatory loophole under a requirement that all 23,000 grandfathered chemicals be given at least a preliminary evaluation to see whether they need further study, although this process won’t be completed until later this year.

The widespread release of the perfluorochemicals wasn’t detected in the 1970s when DDT, PCBs and other contaminants were banned because the sophisticated scientific equipment needed to find them in the environment wasn’t widely available until the mid-1990s. Since at least 1979, 3M had known that PFOS was in the tissues of production workers, but this wasn’t widely known outside of the corporation.

Although average levels of the contaminants in most people are still low, part of the population has been found to have exposures that are many times higher. For an unknown reason, levels in children can be higher than in adults. Some U.S. children with the highest blood levels of PFOA overlap with the levels seen to have caused such effects as low birth weight and decreased growth in animals, according to an evaluation by the Environmental Working Group.

“The fact is that while we don’t know all that we should know, what we do know is troubling,” Tim Cropp, a toxicologist at the EWG, said.

Chemical fears

What they are: Perfluorochemicals, which use the elements fluorine and carbon to make non-stick and stain-resistant coatings. Perfluorochemicals have a molecular structure that prevents them from mixing well with water or oil.

Scientists in the United States have zeroed in on two members of this chemical family as particularly worrisome: perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA for short, and perfluorooctanyl sulfonate, or PFOS. The chemicals have been used to make some of the world’s most famous brand names, including Teflon and Scotchgard.

Where are they found: Some fast-food wrappers, water-repellant clothing, stain-resistant clothing and carpets, non-stick cookware, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn containers, nail polishes and shaving cream.

Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 09:05:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: Proposed Pesticide Bylaw – FYI
To: hlysynsk@london.ca
CC: lcap@londoncoalitionagainstpesticides.org, pmcleod@thelondoner.ca, jsher@lfpress.com, newstalk1290today@cjbk.com, John.Wilsons@corusent.com, sewhite@london.ca

Chair and Members, Environment & Transportation Committee
Corporation of the City of London
300 Dufferin Avenue
London, Ont; N6A 4L9

May 27, 2006

Re: Proposed Pesticide Ban

With respect to the proposed ban on pesticides, the 2006/05/15 written submission which I previously made to you based upon the precautionary principle, and the contention by some that we should simply trust regulatory agencies such as Health Canada.

I wish to draw to your attention, the following article which appeared in today’s Toronto Globe & Mail.


Gregory Fowler, Ward One Candidate
962 Eagle Crescent
London, Ont; N5Z 3H7.
(519) 649-0500

A review by federal regulators has determined that chemicals once thought to be benign are potentially dangerous for the physical health of Canadians.
by Martin Mittelstaedt; Toronto Globe & Mail; 2006/05/27

TORONTO — Federal regulators have determined that about 4,000 chemicals used for decades in Canada pose enough of a threat to human health or the environment that they need to be subjected to safety assessments.

The sheer number of chemicals needing review means there is probably not a person in Canada who hasn’t been exposed to some of them.

While many are industrial compounds, others are widely used to make everyday products found in practically every home and office in the country, ranging from hair dryers to water bottles, fast-food wrappers, TVs, computer casings and the inside of tin cans.

The chemicals needing review were culled from a list of 23,000 substances grandfathered from a detailed safety study because they were in widespread commercial use before Canada adopted its first comprehensive pollution legislation, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, in 1988.

Although federal officials are publicly playing down the huge number of substances that they’ve deemed need a review, an environmentalist who participated in the federal effort to place chemicals into safe and risky categories was surprised by the magnitude.

“We didn’t expect that many chemicals to come through,” said Fe de Leon, a researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association, a non-profit organization that uses existing laws to protect the environment and advocates environmental law reforms. “I don’t think Environment Canada and Health Canada did, either.”

The review has become a pressing health and ecological issue because research is indicating that many substances once thought to be benign could be dangerous.

In the past 20 years, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers have linked chemicals in long-term use to a host of health problems and modern disease trends, including learning disabilities, hyperactivity disorders, low sperm counts, altered thyroid function, and breast cancer, among others. Surveys have also found that many of the chemicals causing adverse effects in laboratory animal tests are found in human tissues and in wildlife.

Ms. de Leon has seen a preliminary copy of the list of chemicals to be reviewed and said it contained around 4,000 substances she characterized as including “the baddies of the bad.”

They include bisphenol A, the basic building block for polycarbonate plastic, which is used to make such things as 20-litre water-cooler jugs, coatings on compact disks, and Nalgene water bottles. It’s also a component in dental sealants for children’s teeth and is found in the resins that line almost all tin cans sold in North America.

The list also includes some types of perfluorocarbons, which are used to make non-stick, stain-resistant or water-repellant products and are commonly found in fast-food packaging, furniture, clothing and cookware.

The approximate size of the list has been confirmed by David Morin, an Environment Canada official who has worked on classifying the chemicals. Health Canada said in a statement that it has identified “a large number of chemicals for further study,” including bisphenol A.

Environment Canada and Health Canada are required to make public the names of all the chemicals they believe need safety assessments by Sept. 14.

Although most substances in use today have been tested to see if they are acutely poisonous, many haven’t been subjected to the kind of in-depth analyses that would determine whether they cause cancer, disrupt hormone functions, interfere with fetal development or accumulate in wildlife.

Some environmentalists contend that allowing tens of thousands of chemicals to be used without full knowledge of their effects is a major regulatory lapse.

“There is clearly a significant, present, growing health risk from a lot of these chemicals,” said Rick Smith, spokesman for Environmental Defence, an activist group that last year found residues from chemicals in consumer products in the blood of every Canadian they monitored.

He called for the government to ban or restrict the most dangerous of the 4,000 chemicals, an approach that he said would deal with “the worst of the worst.”

For the past seven years, federal health and environment scientists, along with environmentalists and industry representatives, have been going over the list of grandfathered chemicals. Under federal law, these are defined as substances that were used in Canada between 1984 and 1986, so it includes many chemicals developed in the 1950s and 1960s, and even earlier. They have concluded most of their work, leading to a fairly accurate estimate of the total that will need further study.

“They are essentially done,” said Ms. de Leon, who was critical of the length of time it has taken to see which chemicals are safe. “It boggles my mind.”

Canada is one of many countries around the world that is investigating the safety of chemicals that are in use but have never been subjected to full reviews.

Most of these chemicals escaped detailed scrutiny because they were developed before modern pollution laws existed. When those laws were established, it was common for governments to exempt existing substances from the more rigorous evaluations they started applying to any new chemicals.

In Europe, about 100,000 chemicals were on the market before 1981 and were exempt from detailed reviews. European regulators say that safety information is sketchy for around the vast majority of these chemicals. Since 1981, about 4,300 new chemicals have been subjected to in-depth testing.

Canadian regulators say their evaluation of the 23,000 grandfathered chemicals is the most comprehensive such action in the world, and puts Canada ahead of both Europe and the United States in terms of chemical safety.

“The government of Canada is now leading the world in addressing chemicals introduced” before modern pollution laws, Health Canada said in its statement.

Based on the new research, Canadian regulators have been going over the list of grandfathered chemicals to check for four factors that might signal they pose risks:

whether they persist for long periods in the environment without breaking down into harmless compounds;

whether they bio-accumulate, the scientific term for becoming more concentrated in the tissues of living things higher up on the food chain;

whether they are “inherently toxic,” the government’s term for substances that pose health threats to humans or wildlife;

whether their extensive use means they present the greatest potential for human exposures.

An Environment Canada official said that just because a substance meets the threshold for further review doesn’t necessarily mean it will be found to be a health danger. The full extent of the hazards won’t be known until the government conducts assessments on the individual chemicals and determines actual human or animal exposure levels. It is not known how long this process will take.

“Because the substances meet the criteria does not mean that they pose a risk,” Mr. Morin said.

Canadian regulators and those in other countries have been surprised in recent years to find that some chemicals they permitted to be used for decades without much scrutiny were suddenly found to be harmful. Many involved substances destined for use in consumer products.

In 2000, 3M Co. announced it would phase out perfluorooctanyl sulfonate, a substance used to make one of its signature products, Scotchgard. PFOS, as it is also known, was found to be widely present in human blood samples across the U.S., and in wildlife. Laboratory testing on rodents indicated it also killed rat pups born to mothers that had been exposed to the chemical.

In January, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and seven other big chemical producers agreed under a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sharp reductions in emissions from their products and factories of perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used to help make Teflon brand non-stick products, among other things. The chemical has recently also been deemed a likely carcinogen.

In another case, Great Lakes Chemical Corp. agreed to phase out by the end of 2004 two chemical flame retardants accumulating in wildlife that have been found to induce attention deficit and hyperactivity symptoms in laboratory animals. The flame retardants had been widely used for years in foam mattresses and computers.

Ms. de Leon said current approaches to chemical safety haven’t been adequate.

“We just thought that chemicals stayed inert in products and this evidence suggests that no, they escape,” she said. “We need to have a better framework to deal with them.”



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