Canada releasing a billion kilograms
of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes basin
By Dennis Bueckert
Published June 8, 2005
OTTAWA (CP) - Despite government claims that pollution
is decreasing, a new study says Canada released a billion
kilograms of toxic chemicals annually in the Great Lakes
basin from 1998-2002 with no significant decline.
Most of the chemicals were released into the air - now
recognized as the biggest source of pollution affecting
the lakes - by industry and public utilities.
The load in 2002 included three million kilograms of
carcinogens and almost 2,000 kilograms of mercury, which
can harm child development.
"The numbers are staggering," said Paul Muldoon
of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, which produced
the report together with Environmental Defence of Toronto.
"We're talking about hundreds of millions of kilograms
in virtually every category. This is what the government
allows. The Great Lakes remain by and large a dumping
ground for industry."
The report comes on the heels of a study by Toronto Public
Health that estimated air pollution causes more than 2,200
premature deaths each year in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa
Muldoon said public complacency has set in due to government
claims that the Great Lakes are getting cleaner.
Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978,
Canada and the United States agreed to virtually eliminate
toxic chemicals from the Great Lakes, but the study says
pollution decreased by less than one per cent over the
Rick Smith of Environmental Defence noted that the U.S.
has been making more progress in reducing emissions than
Canada. Half of U.S. states now have toxics reduction
Only a few chemicals have been regulated under the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act, and thousands haven't even
been assessed for toxicity. There is no overall target
for reducing toxic pollution.
"We have nothing like it on the Canadian side either
provincially or federally," Smith said.
"It is now crystal clear that Canada is an international
pollution delinquent. We need a new approach. We need
a recommitment from the provincial and federal governments
to protect the health of Canadians."
The report is based on data compiled by the Council for
Environmental Co-operation, a NAFTA agency which tracks
a list of chemicals from major sources. It doesn't include
Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental
Law Association are calling on governments to set aggressive
targets for reducing pollution, with timelines and accountability.
In the House of Commons, NDP Leader Jack Layton demanded
mandatory limits on pollution.
"I'd like to know what words this government has
for the people who are going to emergency wards right
now because their kids can't breathe."
Environment Minister Stephane Dion insisted the government
is acting strongly to deal with smog, citing regulations
requiring a sharp reduction of sulphur in gasoline.
We need to do more it is true but we are doing a lot of
very important things for Canadians."
© The Canadian Press 2005