Monday, 17 September 2012

Adopting REACH for Canadian health and economic benefits

Title of my proposal: Adopting REACH for Canadian health and economic benefits On September 24, 2004 I spoke to a group of organic farmers, professionals and students about the EU’s new regulatory framework REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) as part of my hosting of the seminar “Organic Farmers and the Law” at the University of Victoria. I chose this topic to illustrate the health differences between organic and conventional food in terms of chemical exposure; proposing that organic food should not be dismissed as an optional “lifestyle choice for those able to afford it”. My proposal for this paper is to suggest that current Canadian standards should be adapted to those in REACH and then actively enforced. Imported goods should also have to meet those standards. REACH shifts the burden of proof of safety back to the producers and manufacturers of chemicals. My other proposals are for organic agriculture and green industries to be promoted by the Canadian government for their economic and health benefits. My approach to this topic in 2004, which I aim to replicate in my paper, was to focus on EU Commissioner for the Environment (1999-2004) Dr. Margot Wallström. I supplemented my focus on her with a summary of the Pesticides Literature Review conducted by the Ontario College of Family Physicians and published in April 2004 ( I ended my talk with a look at the US Data Quality Act written by industry lobbyist Jim Tozzi that was slipped into a 712-page Treasury & General Government Appropriations Act in 2000 during the Bush v. Gore political upheaval. It directs the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that all information disseminated by the federal government is reliable (quality, objectivity, utility, integrity of information). The law has repercussions such as the case for Atrazine. It was banned by the EU in 2005 because it disrupts hormones in wildlife (for example it produces frogs with male/female organs). It was not banned in US despite 10 years of scientific review because a sentence was added to the final scientific assessment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2003. This sentence reads: hormone disruption cannot be considered a “legitimate regulatory endpoint at this time” because the [Bush] government has not settled on an officially accepted test for measuring such disruption”. The Data Quality Act is important because some Canadian agencies rely on US data. For example Martin Mittelstaedt reported in the Globe and Mail (May 21, 2004, pg A17), that “a comprehensive survey of more than 1,300 Americans has found traced of weed- and bug-killers in the bodies of everyone tested. The study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the body of the average American contained 13 of these chemicals”.… health authorities in Canada had done no comparable survey on the amount of pesticides in Canadians. A spokeswoman for Health Canada, Catherine Saunders, says the agency relies on the U.S. data to estimate what Canadians may have in their bodies.” In 2003 Dr. Wallström participated in a bio-monitoring survey run by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Co-operative Bank and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes ( She was one of 50 male and 105 female participants from the UK and Belgium aged 22 to 80. Her blood (40ml) was screened at the Department of Environmental Sciences of Lancaster (UK), for 77 man-made chemicals found in every day products such as TV sets, carpets, furniture and food. Her blood had 28 chemicals, including some that had been banned decades before. The person with the highest number of chemicals in their blood had 49. Dr. Wallström became involved in politics in Sweden in her twenties and as such may have had less exposure to chemicals than poorer women, non-Scandinavians and women working in factories, agriculture and health industries. It is telling that the blood of this elite politician contained Penta-BDE flame retardants, PCBs and Organo-chlorine pesticides. Some of these chemicals, not only affect the health of women but they can be passed to babies through the placenta and breastfeeding. Selected references David, Joseph A. 2003. “Industry Test-Fires New Secrecy Weapon.” Metcalf Institute Environment Writer. December/January 2002-2003. ( Dietitians of Canada Position Paper, 2007. Community Food Security – Position of Dietitians of Canada. Fan W, Yanase T, Morinaga H, Gondo S, Okabe T, Nomura M, Komatsu T, Morohashi K, Hayes TB, Takayanagi R, Nawata H. 2007. Atrazine-induced aromatase expression is SF-1 dependent: implications for endocrine disruption in wildlife and reproductive cancers in humans. Environ Health Perspect. 115(5):720-7. Genuis SJ. Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked. Neurotoxicology. 2008 Jun 24. [Epub ahead of print] Poissant L, Beauvais C, Lafrance P, Deblois C. Pesticides in fluvial wetlands catchments under intensive agricultural activities. Sci Total Environ. 2008 Jul 11. [Epub ahead of print]. Raphael D, Curry-Stevens A, Bryant T. Barriers to addressing the social determinants of health: Insights from the Canadian experience. Health Policy. 2008 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]. Weselak M, Arbuckle TE, Wigle DT, Walker MC, Krewski D. 2008. Pre- and post-conception pesticide exposure and the risk of birth defects in an Ontario farm population. Reprod Toxicol. 25(4):472-80.