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So far, 11 years and counting. That’s how long government scientists have been working to get a chemical used in rubber tires put on the official list of toxic chemicals under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The process began in 2006 when Ottawa identified 200 high-priority compounds and grouped them into batches for regulatory consideration. BENPAT was one of them.
It’s a compound made up of three chemicals (1,4-Benzenediamine, N,N’-mixed phenyl and tolyl derivatives), which is imported to Canada and added to rubber tires to make them last longer. The compound gets into the environment in two ways: from industrial release and from the abrasion of tires when the rubber hits the road.
Although no human health risk was established, government scientists determined that BENPAT is a persistent pollutant that is “highly hazardous to aquatic organisms.” In 2011 Environment Canada announced its intention to reduce the release of BENPAT in the environment “to the greatest possible extent.”
But today BENPAT is still not on the list of toxic substances. Just as Ottawa was about to make it official in 2011, Goodyear Canada filed a notice of objection, demanding a review of the environmental assessment process. When the minister refused, Goodyear Canada filed for a judicial review in Federal Court. The company lost on the first try, and then appealed in 2016. On Monday, it lost again, when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed Goodyear’s appeal.
What happens now? Environment Canada told CBC Health in an email that it is reviewing the Federal Court decision and deciding whether to proceed with putting BENPAT on the toxic substance list.
“We are disappointed in the ruling,” Goodyear Canada spokesperson James Peate told CBC Health in an email. “We will review the decision and consider our options. We take seriously our responsibility to care for our associates, communities and the environment, and our facilities will always comply with applicable regulations.”
“This is an example of the problems that we have with our legislative framework that governs the way toxic chemicals are regulated,” said Muhannad Malas of Environmental Defence. “The issue of timelines has been an issue that for many years we’ve worked to try to improve.”
In June the House of Commons standing committee on environment and sustainable development recommended a series of changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Environmental groups applauded the proposed changes in part because they would tighten timelines of risk management actions, Malas said.