The Government of Canada’s response to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water, products, and waste

Petition: 458

Issue(s): Corporate social responsibility; Human/environmental health; Toxic substances; Waste management; Water

Petitioner(s): Canadian organizations

Petitioner location(s): Kitchener, Ontario; North Bay, Ontario; Ottawa, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario

Date received: 12 August 2021

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition requests information on the Government of Canada’s response to and assessment of a group of chemicals classed as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and information on the government’s timelines for addressing the regulation of PFAS in Canada. It refers to PFAS as “forever chemicals” because it asserts that they will take hundreds if not thousands of years to dissipate from the environment. The petition also says PFAS pose a risk to human and ecosystem health.

The petition says that PFAS chemicals can be found in airport and military firefighting foam and numerous household commodities, cosmetics, and other common consumer goods. According to the petition, when these products are manufactured or put into landfills, PFAS move into the air, soil, and water around these sites. The petition cites the example of North Bay, Ontario, where it is concerned that a local Canadian Forces Base’s firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals is affecting the drinking water supply. The petition lists several human health concerns that it says are derived from PFAS exposure, such as an increased risk of cancer, prenatal harm, and reduced vaccine effectiveness. It also refers to a research report that it says has found that individuals with PFAS exposure experience more severe COVID-19 symptoms and health effects.

The petition is concerned that potential sites and waterways contaminated with PFAS chemicals are not being efficiently monitored and identified in Canada. It requests information on the criteria for investigation, available data from monitoring programs undertaken, and instances where this information was shared with the public.

The petition seeks information on how responsive federal legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, is to the environmental and health threats associated with PFAS chemicals. It also seeks to ascertain what steps the Government of Canada will take to protect Canadians’ health and the environment. Finally, the petition asks how the act and its regulations apply to the cross-border movement into Canada of waste containing PFAS.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Health Canada; National Defence; Transport Canada