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New Canadian legislation reveals toxic chemicals in neighborhoods

Monday, December 8, 2008

toronto_7.jpgOnce again, our neighbor Canada is leading the way in the fight to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. Toronto has become the first city in Canada to require businesses to disclose the toxic chemicals they use. This program sets a much lower threshold for reporting than national programs in Canada or the U.S. and is likely to generate useful data about industrial chemical pollution in the Toronto community.

According to the Globe and Mail, Toronto's new "right to know" bylaw would force businesses to post information about their toxic chemical use on the Internet.

Now, that is a novel idea: residents would know exactly what toxic chemicals are being used in their neighborhoods! Why don't we do something like that here in the U.S.?

Oh, we do. It's called the Toxic Release Inventory, a branch of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But EPA requires reporting from polluters who emit than 10,000 or 25,000 pounds of most chemicals. Toronto's innovative program covers small facilities that emit as little as 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of toxic pollution.

Laws that require full disclosure of pollutants usually have good results.

Besides shedding daylight on industrial chemicals routinely used in various communities, these laws can motivate smaller companies, not previously monitored, to find safer alternatives. That's important because small facilities are often in residential neighborhoods, near homes, schools and playgrounds.

Toronto's law will be phased in over 4 years, starting in 2010. Way to go Toronto!