Canada releasing a billion kilograms of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes basin
Written by Canadian Press   
Wednesday, 08 June 2005 17:51

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 and Windsor.

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 five-year period.

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 laws.

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 auto emissions.

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."

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