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4 chemicals labelled toxic by Ottawa

Problematic compounds are used in products such as nail polish, art supplies, printing inks and skin creams

By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News ServiceMarch 7, 2009 

The federal government on Friday declared four chemicals widely used in paints, varnishes, stains and industrial cleaners as toxic to human health, paving the way for their possible ban in products.

The chemicals are reproductive or developmental toxins and the third is a carcinogen. They can also be used in nail polish, printing inks, artist materials and grout products.

One of the chemicals is used in some hairsprays, skin creams and as a fragrance ingredient, according to Health Canada.

Another chemical is not used in cosmetics, but may be present as an impurity in some consumer products, such as nail polish remover and hair products, the department said.

“This is an important step towards further protecting the health of Canadians and our environment,” Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a statement.

“Our government is taking action to reduce Canadians’ exposure to substances of concern and to put in place new assessments for substances that could be harmful if widely used.”

The government released its decision under its chemicals management plan, launched in 2006 after identifying 200 “high priority” chemical substances that were potentially harmful to human health or the environment. Officials had sorted through the approximately 23,000 existing substances introduced into Canada before the creation of stronger environmental legislation.

Following Friday’s “toxic” designation of four chemicals, the government is now required to draft a plan to manage each chemical to protect the health of Canadians.

The most dramatic option is a ban, which the Ministry of Health is instituting for bisphenol A in baby bottles.

A spokesman for Environment Defence, which lobbied the government to declare the chemicals as health toxins, praised the announcement.

“The government has sent an important signal to consumers and manufacturers that these chemicals should not be used.

They are found in common household items, and we think these chemicals should be phased out of use,” said Aaron Freeman.

The chemicals to be declared toxic to human health are: 2-(2-Methoxyethoxy) ethanol (DEGME); 2-Methoxyethanol acetate (2-MEA); 2-methoxy-1-propanol; and C.I. Pigment Red 3. The government determined these substances are not toxic to the environment.

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