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Questions and Answers

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

  • What is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    CEPA 1999 is an important part of Canada's federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. The goal of CEPA 1999 is to contribute to sustainable development - development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

    CEPA 1999 came into force on March 31, 2000 following an extensive Parliamentary review of the former CEPA. CEPA 1999 contains significant improvements for the protection of the environment over the former Act. It:

    • Makes pollution prevention the cornerstone of national efforts to reduce toxic substances in the environment;
    • Sets out processes to assess the risks to the environment and human health posed by substances in Canadian commerce;
    • Imposes timeframes for managing CEPA toxic substances;
    • Provides a wide range of tools to manage toxic substances, other pollution and wastes;
    • Ensures the most harmful substances are phased out or not released into the environment in any measurable quantity;
    • Includes new provisions to regulate vehicle, engine and equipment emissions;
    • Strengthens enforcement of the Act and its regulations;
    • Encourages greater citizen input into decision-making; and
    • Allows for more effective cooperation and partnership with other governments and Aboriginal peoples.

    For a better understanding of CEPA 1999 and toxic substances please view the link provided below:

    A Guide to Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

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  • What is considered to be a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    Section 64 of CEPA 1999 defines a substance as toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that:

    a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity;

    b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends;

    or

    c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health 

    For a better understanding of CEPA 1999 and toxic substances please view the link provided below:

    A Guide to Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

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  • How are substances assessed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    Several mandates have been introduced in the Act, which propose an efficient process for identifying, screening, assessing and managing substances. Two of these are the Categorization and Screening of the Domestic Substances List (DSL) and Section 75, which requires the review of decisions from other jurisdictions.

    Section 73 of CEPA 1999 requires both the Ministers of the Environment and Health to categorize the substances listed on the DSL. Substances identified as presenting to individuals in Canada the greatest potential for exposure; or substances that are persistent, or bioaccumulative and inherently toxic to human beings or to non-human organisms were categorized for screening assessments.  The screening level risk assessment conducted on the DSL substances involves an analysis of the substance to determine whether the substance is "toxic" or capable of becoming "toxic" as defined in Section 64 of the Act.

    Section 75 of CEPA 1999 mandates the Ministers to review the decision from other jurisdictions to determine whether the substance is "toxic" or capable of becoming "toxic", unless the decision relates to a substance of which the only use in Canada is regulated under another Act of Parliament that provides for environmental and health protection.

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  • How do I find out if a substance has been assessed or has been found to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    For information on the risk assessment of existing substances in Canada, visit the Chemicals Substances Website – Risk Assessment.

    Those existing substances for which (final) risk assessments have been completed can be found by consulting the list of Completed Assessments of Existing Substances.

    Existing substances that have been found toxic under CEPA 1999 are added to the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999.  In certain circumstances substances that are found toxic may not be added to the List of Toxic Substances, Toxic Substances not listed on Schedule 1.

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  • What is the process for the addition of a substance to the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    If a substance has been assessed and is found to meet the definition of a “toxic” substance under section 64 of CEPA, 1999, a notice is published in the Canada Gazette that summarizes the assessment and identifies the reason(s) why a substance was found to be toxic under the Act. The notice provides for a 60-day public comment period, during which interested parties can file written comments on the notice proposed by the Ministers of the Environment and Health

    After taking into consideration any comments received, the Ministers may, if they deem it appropriate, make revisions to the screening assessment report. The Ministers must then publish in the Canada Gazette their final decision as to whether they propose to recommend that the substance be added to Schedule 1; or added to the Priority Substances List for further assessment, or whether they recommend that no further action be taken in respect of the substance. A copy of the final report of the assessment is also made available to the public. If the Ministers' final decision is to propose that the substance be added to Schedule 1 of the Act, they must also recommend to the Governor in Council that the substance be added to the List of Toxic Substances (Schedule 1).   The substance will only be formally added to the List of Toxic Substances once the Governor in Council approves an Order specifying its addition.

    For more information concerning the processes and issues that occur within the CEPA 1999 framework please view the link below.

    The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999: Issues

    To determine if a substance is currently on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999 or if the Ministers have recommended that a substance be added to the List of Toxic Substances visit the CEPA Environmental Registry Website.

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  • What happens to substances that are added to the List of Toxic Substances (Schedule 1) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    Once a substance is added to Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999, this enables the Government of Canada to proceed with risk management actions.  Risk management actions consist of regulations under CEPA 1999 or other types of instruments respecting preventive or control actions (for example, a pollution prevention plan, an environmental emergency plan, etc.). Once the Ministers' final decision to propose an addition to Schedule 1 is made public, the Government will publish within two years, in the Canada Gazette, Part 1, a proposed regulation or instrument respecting preventive or control actions. Once proposed, the Ministers have a further 18 months to finalize the regulation or another preventative or control instrument. 

    More information on preventive or control instruments can be found through visiting the links provided below:

    CEPA Environmental Registry:  How are Risk Managed?

    CEPA Environmental Registry:  Identifying Risk Management Tools for Toxic Substances Under CEPA 1999

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Management of Toxic Substances

  • What is the Toxics Management Process?

    Administered by Environment Canada in conjunction with Health Canada, the Toxics Management Process is the approach taken to develop management tools including preventive or control instruments for substances that are found toxic and added to Schedule 1, List of Toxic Substances, of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).

    Under the Toxics Management Process, Environment Canada and Health Canada develop risk management instruments or tools in a way that ensures stakeholders are consulted and the timelines set out in CEPA 1999 are satisfied.

    A key component of the Toxics Management Process is the development of a risk management scope and/or risk management approach. The risk management scope document briefly describes the issues, sources of release and exposure, describes how risks to human health and the environment posed by the use, release and/or exposure of a toxic substance will be addressed. It briefly explains why risks associated with uses and/or releases of a substance must be managed, describes existing management initiatives or instruments in place to prevent or reduce uses and/or releases both domestically and internationally, and outlines what should be done in the future to prevent or control further use and/or release of the substance within the implicated sectors.

    The risk management approachdocument builds on the previously released risk management scope document and describes in detail the issues, sources of release and exposure, uses, sectors implicated, and outlines the proposed control actions for a particular substance/substances.

    For more information on the Toxics Management Process contact Risk Management Programs of the Chemicals Management Division by electronic mail at: GR-RM@ec.gc.ca.

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  • Who do I contact if I want to discuss the risk management activities proposed for a substance declared to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    The sector lead and/or substance co-ordinator and one or more risk managers are responsible for developing management tools for addressing the risks to human health and the environment posed by the use and/or release of a substance to the environment.

    The sector lead and/or substance co-ordinator are responsible for coordinating all risk management activities for a particular substance. The sector lead and/or substance co-ordinator can also be involved in the very early stages of the risk assessment process to assist in defining the scope of the assessment and developing follow-up actions should the substance be found toxic.

    If you have a question concerning the specific risk management activities for a toxic substance, please contact Risk Management Programs of the Chemicals Management Division by electronic mail at: GR-RM@ec.gc.ca.

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  • What opportunities will there be to consult or comment on the proposed management of a substance declared to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)?

    During the Toxics Management Process, there are informal and formal times at which stakeholders should be involved:

    • (informal) A stakeholder can informally consult throughout the risk management decision process (while the risk management scope and risk management approach are being developed, while selecting proposed risk management objectives, proposed risk management tools and instruments for a particular source or sector, and/or while the risk management tools are being developed.)
    • (formal) There are three 60 day public comment periods which a stakeholder can formally consult during the risk management phase: 1) following the endorsement of the risk management scope; 2) following the publication of the proposed risk management approach and 3) following the publication of the proposed risk management instrument.
    • (formal) Additionally, for substances identified for virtual elimination, consultations on the proposed level of quantification (the lowest concentration that can be accurately measured using sensitive but routine sampling and analytical methods), and the prescribed quantity or concentration of a substance that may be released into the environment as presented in the risk management scope and risk management approach - these consultations take place following publication in the Canada Gazette  of the final decision regarding the assessment of the substance (under section 77(6) of the Act). At the same time, Ministers of Environment and Health's recommendation that the substance be added to the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999 and that virtual elimination be implemented under subsection 65(3) of the Act.

    For more information concerning archived public consultations, please view the links provided below.

    CEPA Environmental Registry: Public Consultations

    Health Canada: Public Involvement

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Chemicals Management Plan

  • What is the Chemicals Management Plan?

    The Government of Canada is taking immediate and decisive action to address substances of high concern, and moving to reassure Canadians about substances that are of little concern.  There are also more chemical substances that have been identified as requiring further assessment in future years. The Government of Canada is committed to assessing all of the substances that have been identified through categorization via successive rounds of assessment and, where necessary, regulatory action. Continuously improved information on the uses and effects of chemical substances will help establish these next rounds of priorities. This plan includes the investments needed to get this work started, and to keep Canada at the forefront of chemicals management globally.

    Managing chemicals safely also relies on strong stewardship from Canadian industry. The government will work with key sectors to develop and codify comprehensive sound management practices that will protect Canadians and the environment. The federal government will also work to ensure that information about chemical substances, their hazards and also practices for their safe management is available to Canadians.

    The Government of Canada will improve product labelling programs as well as the way we deal with imported products which contain chemical substances prohibited in Canada.  The Government of Canada will also look at ways to enhance its current monitoring of consumer products.

    More information about the Chemicals Management Plan, including the list of substances to be addressed, can be found via the Chemical Substances Website.

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  • What is the Challenge with respect to the Chemicals Management Plan?

    The Challenge with respect to the Chemicals Management Plan pertains to the results of the categorization of more than 23,000 chemical substances (that were used in Canada between January 1, 1984 and December 31, 1986) and more specifically the approximate 200 chemicals that were categorized and identified as potentially harmful to human health or the environment that represent the highest priorities for risk assessment and appropriate controls. The Government of Canada is using the existing tools and regulations to challenge industry to provide new information about how they are managing these 200 chemical substances.

    These chemical substances are being assessed within a three year timeframe. Every three months, groups of 15-30 substances have been released to industry and stakeholder groups for a 6-month comment period. The Government of Canada will then decide what actions need to be taken.

    For further information please visit: Chemical Substances Website

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Additional Information

  • Where can I find information about environmental health?

    For information on environmental health, please visit the Health Canada links below:

    Environmental and Workplace Health

    Occupational Health and Safety

    Environmental Contaminants

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  • Where can I find information about pesticides?

    Pesticides are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) which is administered by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

    Pesticides must be registered through Health Canada before they can be imported, sold or used in Canada. Pesticides registered in Canada undergo a rigorous scientific assessment that provides reasonable certainty that no harm will occur when a pesticide is used according to label directions and that the product is effective for its intended use. The product label provides detailed directions on how to use a product safely and effectively.

    More information on pesticides can be found on Health Canada’s Pesticides & Pest Management Website.

    Or you contact the Pest Management Information Service:

    E-mail: pmra_infoserv@hc-sc.gc.ca Telephone: 613-736-3799, Toll-free: 1-800-267-6315

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  • In Canada, who manages the collection and disposal of toxic and hazardous chemicals?

    In Canada, all three levels of government contribute to environmental protection and have a role to play in managing hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material:

    • Municipal governments are responsible for establishing collection, recycling, and disposal programs within their jurisdictions;
    • Provincial and territorial governments establish measures and criteria for licensing hazardous-waste generators, carriers, and treatment facilities, in addition to controlling movements of wastes within their jurisdictions; and,
    • The Federal Government regulates transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials, in addition to negotiating international agreements.

    Environment Canada implements the terms of international agreements related to hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable materials to which it is a party. In signing these agreements, Canada made a commitment to develop national legislation to promote the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials. 

    Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), Environment Canada implements the following regulations:

    1. Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations
    2. PCB Waste Export Regulations
    3. Interprovincial Movement of Hazardous Waste Regulations

    More information related to hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable materials can be found at the Waste Management Division - Information centre

    You may wish to consult with your Municipality, Provincial/Territorial Government that may assist you further in regards to disposal of hazardous chemicals in Canada.

    List of Provincial/Territorial Authorities in Canada – Environment Canada

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  • How can I find out if I can import a product into Canada?

    From Environment Canada’s perspective, Chemical Abstract System (CAS) registry numbers for the substances found within the product that you wish to import must first be obtainedin order to determine if these substances are present on the Domestic Substances List (DSL). Once you've obtained the CAS registry numbers for these substances, you can verify its presence on the DSL by using the Search Engine which is available on the New Substances Website

    Firstly, if the substance is listed on the DSL you are not required to notify Environment Canada under the New Substances Notification Regulations (Chemicals and Polymers) for any import or manufacture of the substance in Canada. If the substance is not on the DSL you are required to submit a New Substance Notification (NSN) package to Environment Canada before the import or manufacture activities start.

    CEPA 1999’s approach to the control of new substances (any substance that does not appear on the DSL of CEPA 1999) is both proactive and preventative, employing a pre-import or pre-manufacture notification and assessment process. When this process identifies a new substance that may pose a risk to human health or the environment, CEPA 1999 empowers Environment Canada to intervene prior to or during the earliest stages of its introduction into Canada. This ability to act early makes the new substances program a unique and essential component of the federal management of toxic substances.

    Should you be required to submit an NSN, you can review the Guidelines for the Notification and Testing of New Substances: Chemicals and Polymers (available on the New Substances Website), wish to find out more on the New Substances Notification Regulations (Chemicals and Polymers) provisions, wish to consult the DSL, or would like to obtain instructions on how to complete the notification, please contact the New Substances Division:

    Telephone: 1-800-567-1999 (within Canada)
    (819) 953-7156 (outside Canada)
    Facsimile: (819) 953-7155
    E-mail:  NSN-Infoline@ec.gc.ca

    Secondly, please verify that the substances found within the product you wish to import have not been added to Schedule 1, List of Toxic Substances, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.  If any of the substances contained within this product is listed on Schedule 1, there may be risk management tools in place that restrict its importation or manufacture in Canada.

    For more information of the management of substances found on Schedule 1, please do not hesitate to contact GR-RM@ec.gc.ca .

    For information on the management of the health risks and safety hazards associated with many consumer products, please contact Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Bureau (CPS-SPC@hc-sc.gc.ca).

    For information regardingthe programs and services offered by theCanada Border Services Agency please contact this agency at the following e-mail address,CBSA-ASFC@canada.gc.caor visit the Canada Border Services Agency Website.

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