November 21, 2007

TORONTO STAR - November 21, 2007

Debra Black
Kerry Gillespie
Staff Reporters

The provincial government is establishing a panel of experts to examine what to do about a potentially carcinogenic chemical found in plastic baby bottles, children's drinking cups, soft plastic toys, reusable water bottles and even the lining of some food cans.

Premier Dalton McGuinty made the announcement after meeting with a delegation of concerned parents and members of Environmental Defence – a group that has studied chemicals polluting the bodies of Canadian children. The group has found 39 chemicals contaminating the children it tested in its "Toxic Nation" study, including bisphenol A – a substance associated with breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and developmental problems.

Environmental Defence held a rally at Queen's Park yesterday morning – part of National Child Day celebrations – to draw attention to the issue and asked the provincial government to get rid of bisphenol A from bottles and cups.

About 150 parents and children demonstrated in front of Queen's Park, carrying signs that read: "Babies Unite Against Toxic Chemicals" and "Don't Pollute Me."

Emma Reid, a 37-year-old mother of two, is concerned about the long-term effect of bisphenol A on her children. "As soon as I found out about bisphenol A I switched to stainless steel, bisphenol A-free plastic and glass. ... It's important that the government step up on environmental health issues facing kids and parents," she said as her son played nearby holding a toddler-sized picket sign.

One of the top priorities for the province's panel of experts will be determining what should be done with bisphenol A and other toxins. Health Canada is studying the potential risks of bisphenol A and is due to report in May. But McGuinty said his government won't wait for Ottawa to act if the panel deems action is warranted now.

"Why is it that at the beginning of the 21st century one in four Ontarians are dying of cancer?" he asked yesterday. "We need to do a better job of understanding the influence of these chemicals toxins and carcinogens in our environment and our quality of life."

The premier also said his government will introduce a new bill this spring that will reduce and eliminate some toxic chemicals in both industrial emissions and consumer products. Earlier this year Environmental Defence tested Premier McGuinty, PC Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton for toxic chemicals in their bodies and found a total of 46 chemicals, including bisphenol A.

Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, told the crowd that governments "need to protect our children from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. ... Parents shouldn't have to have a degree in chemical engineering to shop for our kids," he said.

More than 130 peer-reviewed studies have associated bisphenol A with a wide variety of health issues, including breast cancer, said Aaron Freeman, policy director for Environmental Defence.

Smith called the proposed legislation the first of its kind in Canada. "The commitments we received today are significant," he said.

But the NDP's environment critic Peter Tabuns believes the province didn't go far enough fast enough. He called for the immediate ban of bisphenol A in children's products.