Protecting aquatic environments from harmful effects of nanosilver in consumer products

Petition: 452

Issue(s): Biological diversity; Human/environmental health; Toxic substances; Water

Petitioner(s): Canadian residents

Petitioner location(s): Ottawa, Ontario

Date received: 19 April 2021

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition concerns the impact of nanosilver (microscopic silver particles measuring 1‑100 nanometres) on aquatic ecosystems. According to the petition, nanosilver is found in over 400 different consumer products, ranging from clothing and cosmetics to medical products and electronics. The petition maintains that there is a lack of action by the federal government to regulate nanosilver concentrations in manufactured products. It states that there is a high risk of nanosilver being dispersed into the environment and entering aquatic systems. According to the petition, the growing use of nanosilver is concerning because there is evidence that it is harmful to the aquatic environment and human health and that it is acutely toxic to fish.

The petition argues that it is difficult to determine which products in Canada contain nanosilver because of a lack of regulations and labelling requirements, as well as the absence of an official database where these products are listed. The petition compares the status of federal government actions on nanosilver with the steps taken by the federal government for microbeads. Citing scientific review and the existence of regulations prohibiting the manufacturing and importing of toiletries that contain microbeads, the petition maintains that similar measures should apply to consumer products containing nanosilver.

The petition questions why no legislation exists (such as labelling requirements or regulations) regarding nanosilver and why the limits on concentration of silver in freshwater in the “Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life: Silver” do not also apply to silver nanoparticles. The petition also inquires whether the federal government has plans to require manufacturers to identify nanomaterial use, limit the concentration of nanosilver in consumer products, and educate Canadians on the use of nanosilver in consumer products. It also asks whether the government will relaunch its decommissioned NanoPortal database, which formerly reported on information on nanotechnology programs and products containing nanomaterials.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Health Canada