Peter Julian, MP Burnaby-New Westminster, has kindly sent an update about Bill C-494’s progress (the bill on nanotechnology safety that he introduced in Canada’s House of Commons in March 2010).
One comment, I’m not entirely certain how some of conclusions in this update were reached but my concerns are nits rather than picks and more about those after you read Peter Julian’s update,
Progress continues on Bill C-494, An Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (nanotechnology), with growing support towards nanotechnology’s safe introduction in Canada, including from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). Exciting developments in Europe towards consumer product labeling and increased precaution for nanomaterials, such as the Swiss recommendation for a precautionary 1-500nm approach to risk assessment, coupled with improved workplace safety measures in the United States, are key drivers for change.
Over 1,000 nano-enabled products have now been released into the global marketplace, from toothpaste to socks, computers to cars, aeronautics to cement, and health care.
Although most nanotechnology applications are believed to be safe, the number of nano-enabled products or nanomaterials in use in Canada is not known, as there still is no public inventory to either monitor nanotechnology or assure its safety for Canadians. Testimonies and evidence presented to the House of Commons Health Committee raise additional concern and alarm towards the government’s slow response to emerging risk science and precautionary regulatory actions now implemented in other countries.
The Government of Canada now acknowledges regulatory “limitations” towards nanomaterials safety, and promises “possible amendments” to government policies that may be placing nanotechnology and Canadians at increased risk. Canada’s expected economic and societal benefit from this “platform” technology, across the 21st century, includes the automotive, construction, defence, energy, foods, health, and textile sectors. The federal government also acknowledged the importance of having a public inventory as advocated in bill C-494.
Canada must keep pace with international measures towards nanotechnology safety.
I will continue to work towards safe nanotechnology in Canada, through Bill C-494 and by encouraging the Harper government to fix both policy and regulatory “limitations”.
As for the nits, that “Over 1,000 nano-enabled products … ” comment is a stab in the dark. No one really knows how many nano-enabled products are out there and this number sounds like it’s based on a database maintained by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). The PEN database (the best known and most respected) is voluntary and not vetted, in other words, anybody can claim and register a nano-enabled product.
ETA Feb.2.11: I received an email from Peter’s office citing the source of the statistic. From the email,
“In collaboration with Environment Canada, in February 2009 Industry Canada collected data on the number of consumer products on the Canadian market that incorporated nanotechnology-based components or technologies. These were estimated at over 1600 products, with 68% being imported into Canada from more than 11 different countries.”
Thank you, I’d forgotten about this source. This data is from an OECD report than I commented on in an April 12, 2010 posting. Here are the comments I made at the time,
Over 1600 ‘nano’ products are being imported into Canada? They know this because, from the report, p. 31,
In collaboration with Environment Canada, in February 2009 Industry Canada collected data on the number of consumer products on the Canadian market that incorporated nanotechnology-based components or technologies.
This data collection seems a bit odd given that Environment Canada’s definition of nanomaterials that need to be reported specifically excludes nano titanium dioxide which is a very popular nano material. (I have more about definitions in section following in this post.) Plus, I wonder where else this information about the number of products with nanomaterials is available and how many Canadians know about it?
I think my comments about the data still stand and this business about where we get data and how we get and whether or not it’s valid points to the difficulties anybody, no matter how hard they try, has discussing nanotechnology-enabled products in Canada and elsewhere.
The June 2010 hearing of the House of Commons Health Committee (mentioned in the paragraph after the ‘1000 products’) which ” … raise[d] additional concern and alarm towards the government’s slow response to emerging risk science and precautionary regulatory actions now implemented in other countries,” I’d like to know more about that concern and the hearing. I did send some email interview questions last summer to the hearing’s chair, Joyce Murray, MP Vancouver Quadra and, later, to one of the members, Cathy McLeod, MP Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, and have yet to hear back. After reading the June 10, 2010 evidence from the hearing, I did post my impressions and thoughts on June 23, 2010.
I’m glad to hear that Peter Julian is persisting in his efforts and hope that this bill might open up a larger discussion (I know I’m being idealistic) on emerging technologies and sciences and how Canadians will be grappling with the implications as a society. In short, I’d like to see some imagination, discussion, and engagement rather than a single-minded rush to legislation and hope that Julian’s bill will act as a catalyst to that end.