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GlobalChem 2015: CEPA ICG executive director Amardeep Khosla answers our questions on how to advance chemical regulations in the U.S. and Canada

Canada has made some progress in regulating chemicals under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) — so how can Canada and the U.S. work together to manage chemicals more effectively?

Professor John Graham answered three big questions on Monday regarding his keynote speech at this year’s GlobalChem conference about what the U.S. can learn from how other countries have tackled key issues in building a sound chemical regulatory system.

Today, we turn to Amardeep Khosla, executive director of the Industry Coordinating Group for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), who will be sharing his thoughts during a panel discussion at the Conference regarding this very topic.

Q1. Has Canada made much progress on regulating chemicals under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP)?

Yes, in my view, for three main reasons. First, the CMP set clear priorities based on a credible, risk-based approach. Second, manageability and timelines have remained in focus. And third, industry and other stakeholders have consistently been involved to help build a sound scientific basis for the program, and to build awareness that CMP is a program that works.

Let me share a few points to back that up. A key feature of the 2006 CMP was to extend Canada’s regulatory regime to more comprehensively address existing substances, by focusing on ~4,300 of the ~23,000 substances on the domestic Inventory (DSL). The 4,300 were identified as “meeting the criteria for further attention” via an initial, categorization process that considered aspects of inherent toxicity, the potential for bioaccumulation and persistence, and exposure. The remaining ~19,000 substances were identified as “not requiring further action at this time”. The CMP has addressed the 4,300 in 5-year phases: CMP1 launched in 2006 (~1,100 substances); and CMP2 launched in 2011 (~1,500 substances). Given the sequential nature of data acquisition, assessment and management, both CMP1 and CMP2 currently remain in effect. Discussions have begun on the design of a potential CMP3.

Of the ~2,600 CMP1 and CMP2 substances, over 1700 have been assessed via individual initiatives. While the details of these initiatives have differed, and sometimes widely so, the underlying Assessment approach used throughout has been more unified and remained rooted in time-tested policies and practices. Subsequent Management steps are being taken, when needed, via consultation with the affected industries and the use of a pragmatic “Best Placed Acts” approach that may result in control actions being taken under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and/ or other Acts including the Food & Drugs Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act. A summary of RM steps already taken is available online here.

Q2: What are the priority issues that remain under the Canadian CMP?

I see three areas which deserve the greatest attention. First, Canada should continue to set clear priorities and to apply tiered approaches to information-gathering and assessment that target the areas of main concern. Ideas under consideration to reduce unnecessary work, and direct the freed-up resources to where they are needed, include: additional Rapid-Screening using recent Inventory Update information to identify more substances “not requiring action at this time”; the systematic identification of polymers of low concern; and matching the complexity of a given assessment with the level of risk involved.

Second, Canada should continue to search out and apply international best practices within a weight-of-evidence based risk assessment framework. This will be particularly important as the CMP moves into a relatively less data-rich environment and addresses substances that are more challenging to characterize or group for assessment (e.g. substances with Unknown or Variable Composition and Biological materials or UVCBs) or that may require the more extensive use of models, and/or novel data sources and assessment techniques.

Finally, I believe Canada must continue to improve engagement of the supply chain, both within Canada and with key trading partners. This will pay dividends by improving meaningful data acquisition and compliance.

Q3: What opportunities exist for Canada and U.S. to cooperate on managing chemicals more effectively?

There are several, in my opinion. The Canada/US Regulatory Cooperation Council is bringing EPA and its counterpart agencies in Canada together to develop a joint process that will allow “companies planning to introduce a new substance in both countries to approach both governments simultaneously”. The process, named the North American Notification Consultation (Nan-C), is being discussed under the aegis of the Canada/US Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC).

The RCC is also bringing the agencies together to collaborate in efforts to align chemical regulatory processes, specifically through the development of common approaches to address emerging risk issues and jointly considering how the use of novel data can inform the assessment of chemicals. Further, they will collaborate in efforts to develop common approaches for regulatory reporting requirements for new uses of chemical substances (Significant New Activity provisions/Significant New Use Rules).

As a side note, well before any Surveys might be launched, CMP typically involves consultation processes that enable companies/sectors to voluntarily provide the government with timely access to the most relevant, available information needed for assessment and/or management of a given substance or group of substances (hazard and exposure data relevant to uses, models, assessment outcomes in other jurisdictions etc.).  I believe the U.S. and Canada should work together to take advantage of these processes.

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