Concerns about single‑use plastics in our waters and about vinyl acetate–based products

Petition: 432

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement; Environmental assessment; Human/environmental health; Toxic substances; Water

Petitioner(s): A Canadian resident

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario

Date Received: 24 September 2019

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition expresses concerns about the increasing production and use of vinyl acetate, a product found in packaging material and laundry and dish detergent packs and pods. The petition describes the rise in demand for packaging material containing polyvinyl alcohol due to its ability to enhance the shelf life of food products and to the growing popularity of take‑away foods.

A 2008 federal screening assessment of vinyl acetate under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) concluded that the substance was not entering the environment in a high enough quantity or concentration or under conditions that constituted a danger to human life or health. The petition argues that since 2008, there has been a rapid increase in vinyl acetate production and use, particularly in food packaging and detergent pods for laundry and dishwashers. According to the petition, this increased production and use warrants a re‑evaluation of vinyl acetate products and their effects on human health and the environment.

The petition requests data from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada on their actions to monitor the increased use of vinyl acetate and its associated products. The petition also asks whether and when the 2 departments will conduct a CEPA re‑evaluation of vinyl acetate. The petition calls on the departments to consider in any re‑evaluation the “environmental receptors”—the ultimate destinations for vinyl acetate products—that could potentially be affected by vinyl acetate products. The petition states that although at the time of the 2008 CEPA evaluation, vinyl acetate was released almost exclusively into land‑based ecosystems, the newer vinyl acetate products (packaging and detergent pods) are introducing the substances into municipal wastewater systems and groundwater aquifers. Finally, the petition seeks more information about roles and future engagement opportunities for Canadians in relation to the re‑evaluation process for vinyl acetate.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Health Canada