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Canada, U.S. designate first set of chemicals of mutual concern


Ottawa, ON – The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement calls for Canada and the United States to identify chemicals of mutual concern. These are chemicals that are in the Great Lakes because of human activities, and which are potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

In 2014, a number of chemicals were nominated for consideration. The Chemicals of Mutual Concern Sub-Committee, supported by technical experts (including government scientists and academics from Canada and the U.S.), evaluated these chemicals based on a series of considerations. The results and recommendations of the evaluations were reviewed by Canadian and U.S. government officials and were published for public comment in May 2015.

Canada and the U.S. have identified the first set of chemicals of mutual concern as:

  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) – used as a flame retardant in polystyrene foam, which is used as insulation material in the building industry.

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – used as flame retardants in a wide variety of consumer products such as furniture household appliances and electronics.

  • Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).

  • Long-Chain Perfluorocarboxylic Acids (LC-PFCAs).

  • Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) – used in industrial manufacturing applications (e.g. paper, plastics and textiles etc.), in electroplating and in commercial (e.g. firefighting foam) and consumer products (e.g. carpets).

  • Mercury – a naturally occurring element found in the earth’s crust that is released from the burning of fossil fuels. It is also found in consumer products including batteries and light bulbs.

  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) – used in the manufacturing of electrical equipment and in heat transfer and hydraulic systems, as well as other specialized applications, until the late 1970s.

  • Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins (SCCPs) – used in rubber manufacturing, the formulation of metalworking fluids, and as plasticizers and flame retardants in plastics and other products (e.g. paints and sealants).

Once a chemical of mutual concern has been identified, Canada and the U.S will develop collaborative strategies to address it. These strategies may include research, monitoring, surveillance, and/or pollution prevention or control measures.

All eight of the designated chemicals of mutual concern are listed on Schedule 1- List of Toxic Substances of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. As such, all eight are, or soon will be, subject to federal risk management action(s) in Canada.