March 8, 2022

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health

The Honourable Marci Ien, P.C., M.P.
Minister for Women, Gender Equality and Youth

The Honourable Paul J. Massicotte, Senator

The Honourable Josée Verner, Senator

The Honourable Margaret Dawn Anderson, Senator

The Honourable David Arnot, Senator

The Honourable Claude Carignon, Senator

The Honourable Rosa Galvez, Senator

The Honourable, Clément Gignac, Senator

The Honourable Diane Griffin, Senator

The Honourable Mary Jane McCallum, Senator

The Honourable Julie Miville-Dechêne, Senator

The Honourable Judith G. Seidman, Senator

The Honourable Karen Sorensen, Senator

Dear Minister Guilbeault, Minister Duclos and Minister Ien, Senators, members of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee,

On this International Women’s Day, 54 Quebec-based women’s groups, health groups, local neighborhood groups and over 200 citizens of all origins are writing to you to express our profound concern about the proliferation of toxics, in our air, homes and offices, in ourclothes, our food, and in a range of personal care products that we use daily.

To curb or better stop this contamination, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which regulates toxic substances, must be modernized and we are pleased the government has introduced Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, in the Senate, reversing the order of study of the bill to better ensure its passage in this mandate. However, as it stands, Bill S-5 needs significant strengthening to protect Canadians from the challenges and harms posed by toxics in the 21st century. Furthermore, this important health issue is subject to dynamics that are highly gendered and racialized as well as effects that are sex-specific. You can find our op-ed on this that was published today in La Presse here.

Given the lack of information available to the general public on the ingredients and materialsof the goods we use and their health effects, it is not surprising that this issue does not get as much attention as it should. Occasionally an issue makes headlines, like BPA in cash receipts or flame retardants in furniture and children’s pajamas (yes, despite their toxicity, there are still flame retardants in some children’s sleepwear) which demonstrates how badly our system needs reform. But the problem is much bigger.

Take for example, BPA. BPA is an important hormone disrupter (or endocrine disrupting chemical) that can mimic or interfere with estrogen in our bodies producinga myriad of health effects. The Endocrine Society recently published an “Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm” which concludes, “In more than 20 years, scientific knowledge of the effects of BPA has grown exponentially. The amount of evidence that is available is overwhelming, and the conclusion is clear: low doses of BPA alter hormone-sensitive organs and are related to a wide range of human noncommunicable diseases based on evidence from human studies; the human data are supported by numerous findings from animal experiments and in vitro mechanistic studies.”

The adverse effects of BPA exposure reported in the scientific literature includealtered estrogen action, early onset puberty, altered breast development and breast cancer, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroid, altered sperm count and quality, neural and behavioral effects, sex-specific changes in brain structure, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, altered liver function, and more. Still, BPA is in wide use and its replacements BPS and BPF are equally toxic. The federal government banned BPA in baby bottles in 2010, although this does nothing to prevent critical in utero exposures or through breast milk and many other sources. It also does nothing to prevent “toxics swaps” of BPA for BPS or BPF, where one toxic is replaced by another substance of similar structure and similar toxicity, but that has not yet received as much attention, researchor regulatory action.

PFAS are another case in point. This is a class of almost 5,000 highly toxic chemicalsandtheirnumber continues to grow. They are very stable substances resistant to degradation that are useful for the repellent quality they give to materials and products. They are used in almost all manufacturing sectors, including food containers, textiles and furniture with anti-stain treatments, clothes for resistance to water and sweat, non-stick cookware, all kind of waxes, a wide range of cosmetics and much, much more.

Health problems associated with PFAS include cancers (testicular and kidney), hormone malfunction, thyroid disease, liver problems, immunological effects including decreased vaccine response, reproductive harms including decreased fertility, pregnancy induced hypertension and abnormal fetal development.

Furthermore, PFAS never break down, meaning they never become less toxic. This is why they are referred to as “forever chemicals.” They will be on our planet continuing to do profound harm to people, animals and ecosystems for thousands of years.

As toxic substances are released from the goods and materials in which they are used, they disperse into our air and the dust in our homes and offices, to the point that many public health agencies recommend opening our windows for 10 minutes each day, summer and winter to bring in fresh air. Even in major cities the outdoor air is usually less polluted than indoor air.

Furthermore, researchers and public health agencies recommend that homes be dusted and vacuumed often, particularly if there are babies or small children in the home. Given the small size of their bodies and the fact that they are often on the floor where dust settles and put their hands and toys in their mouth, they risk overexposure to these substances.Researchers are particularly concerned with the impact of fetal exposures, particularly of hormone disruptors which have a major impact on human development. The issue of fetal exposures and practices to try to reduce exposures for children illustrate the gendered and sex-specific nature of the burden of toxic substances. Pregnant people bear a terrible burden in trying to avoid toxics knowing the profound harm that they can cause to fetal development, and in fact, to the pregnancy itself.

The burden of toxic exposures has always fallen much harder on racialized communities. Dynamics of environmental racism have meant that these communities often find themselves downstream or downwind from major industrial installations and waste sites. In addition, the members of these communities are more likely to find themselves with increased exposures through their workplace.

Racialized women face a specific problem of cosmetics and personal care products containing higher amounts of toxic substances that arespecially marketed to them.Researchers are particularly concerned about the situation of Black women whose hair products contain unique toxic substances not found in products aimed at white women.At the same time, Black women face more aggressive forms of breast cancer along with mortality rates that have not declined at the same rate as for white women.

Researchers are now undertaking studies that examine these two phenomena together with the hypothesis that they are linked, however research in this field in Canada is lacking.

Finally, if there is any doubt about the health effects of substances in cosmetics we use, we just need to look at the case of salon workers, nail salon workers in particular. These workers, often racialized women and people, work in a veritable toxic soup with very serious health effects. Studies have shown that the chemicals found in glues, polishes, removers, emollients and other salon products may produce a range of health effects including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, skin disorders (e.g. allergic contact dermatitis), liver disease, reproductive loss, and cancer.

Cosmetic companies conveniently use the excuse that this is a workplace health and safety issue and that the workplaces just need proper ventilation and personal protectiveequipment. But this ignores many issues faced by vulnerable workers and the fact that individuals not working in salons, especially teenagers,may use these products intensively themselves. And finally, it is entirely possible to manufacture these products without toxic substances, thus avoiding the whole toxic cycle in the first place.

All of these substances eventually end up in our waterways, our landfills and elsewhere, continuing to exert their toxic effects. This combined with our unsustainable and equally toxic pesticide use has put the earth beyond its limit to absorb and breakdown these substances. A new study published in January 2022 concludes that humanity has exceeded a planetary boundary related to environmental pollutants including plastics.

Which brings us to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It is a cornerstone of Canadian environmental legislation whose goal is pollution control to protect the environment and human health. It is a very broad act thatdefines what constitutes toxic substances and their system of regulation as well as establishing controls on air emissions, including greenhouse gasses, water pollution and hazardous waste, and much else. The minister of Health also has responsibility for administration of certain sections include toxic substances.

CEPA was adopted in 1999 and has not had a significant reform since despite the rapid evolution in the environmental issues it regulates and the explosion of new chemical substances in use. And how many people are aware of the fact that our chemical regulatory system is officially a “post-market” regulatory system where chemicals go onto the market and into use before their effects on human health and the environment are fully understood? In fact, the cosmetics regulations require Health Canada to receive the list of ingredients for a new product “10 days after the product has gone on the market.”

We know that many of the most powerful economic sectors in Canada are opposed to a reform of chemical regulations and CEPA generally, which is no surprise because the system works for them. But this government has committed itself to this reform both in its electoral platform and the mandate letters to the ministers of the Environment and Health.

The vast majority of Quebecers, Canadians and First Nations peoples don’t know the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. But we do know we have a major problem with toxics. Enough is enough. Toxic exposures are making us sick, creating a host of disabling conditions for us and all living animals and organisms in our ecosystems, as well as contributing to the pollution in our air, our water and the loss of biodiversity. The time for the government to act – with determination – to strengthen and pass Bill S-5 is now. We, the undersigned, are counting on you.


Action cancer du sein du Québec
Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement
Association féministe d’éducation et d’action sociale
Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement
L’Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec
Autisme Montréal
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances
L’R des centres de femmes du Québec
Regroupement Naissances Respectées
Réseau d’action des femmes en santé et services sociaux
Réseau d'action pour l'égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées du Québec
Réseau des femmes en environnement
Réseau québécois d’action pour la santé des femmes
Ainsi soit-elle Centre de femmes Chambly
Alliance des intervenantes en milieu familial du Bas-St-Laurent-Gaspésie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine
Carrefour Le Moutier
Centre d’animation, de formation et d’accompagnement
Centre de femmes de Shawinigan
Centre de femmes La Moisson
Centre de femmes l'Éclaircie
Centre de santé des femmes de la Mauricie
Centre de solidarité lesbienne
Centre des femmes de Laval
Centre des femmes de Montréal
Centre des femmes du Ô Pays
Centre des Femmes du Témiscouata
Centre des femmes solidaires et engagées
Centre Entre-Femmes
Centre femmes d'aujourd'hui
Centre femmes de Mékinac
Centre Femmes de Portneuf
Centre-femmes de Rimouski
Centre Femmes des Cantons (La Collective Par et Pour Elle Inc.)
ConcertAction Femmes Estrie
Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes
Femmes du Monde à Côte-des-Neiges
Femmes en Mouvement
La Collective des femmes de Nicolet et région
La Gigogne
La Marie Debout
La Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs
La Maison des femmes sourdes de Montréal
L'Alliance des femmes
Le Centre Femmes des Cantons (La Collective Par et Pour Elle Inc.)
Quartier des Femmes
Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la région de la Capitale-Nationale
Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Regroupement Féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick
Réseau des Lesbiennes du Québec
Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec (RTRGFQ)
Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
Table de concertation du mouvement des femmes de la Mauricie (TCMFM)
Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal

Individual Signatories

Jennifer Beeman, Directrice générale, Action cancer du sein du Québec
Lise Parent, Ecotoxicologiste, Professeure, Téluq
Isabelle Plante, Professeure agrégée, chercheure en toxicologie, Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Karen Messing, Professeure émérite en ergonomie, UQAM
Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, Présidente, Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement;
Raissa Marks, Directrice générale, Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement;
Johanne Saint-Charles, Professeure, directrice de l'Institut Santé et société;
Ruth Rose-Lizee, Économiste, professeure associée en sciences économiques, UQAM;
Jean Zigby, Médecin;
Nancy Guberman, Professeure retraitée;
Yasmina Chouakri, Réseau d'action pour l'égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées du Québec;
Alison Burns;
Amina Mezdour, UQAM;
Amira Bensahli, Femmes du Monde;
Anaïs Perrier G.;
Anaïs Gerentes;
Andrée Larose;
Anick Druelle;
Anick Turcotte, Préposée à l'entretien ménager;
Anne St-Cerny, Relais-femmes;
Anne Marie Delaney;
Annie Tabard, Retraitée;
Annie Tanguay, Co-coordonnatrice et intervenante, La Collective des femmes de Nicolet;
Audrée Houle, Centre femmes d'aujourd'hui;
Audrey Mantha, Travailleuse sociale, Directrice générale, Centre de solidarité lesbienne;
Aurélie Gallardo, Centre des femmes de Montréal;
Béatrice Pudelko, Professeure;
Bonnie Mccool, Professeure retraitée;
Brigitte Michaud, Table de concertation des groupes de femmes du Bas-St-Laurent;
Brigitte Watson;
Carmina Tremblay, L'autre Parole;
Carol Secter;
Carole Mainville;
Carole Boulebsol;
Carolina Eleazzaro, Directrice adjointe, Centre des femmes solidaires et engagées;
Caroline Tardif;
Caroline Voyer, Réseau des femmes en environnement;
Catherine Caza, Chargée des communication et du militantisme, Centre de femmes l'Éclaircie;
Catherine Paquet, Intervenante psychosociale, La Marie Debout;
Catherine L'Heureux Savoie, ACEF de l'Est de Montréal;
Catherine Poitras, Coordination des communications;
Cécile Huysman;
Chantal Turgeon, en traitement pour le lymphoedème post cancer du sein;
Charli Lessard;
Charlotte Dimandja;
Christine Sauriol, Le Centre Femmes des Cantons;
Christine Laprise, Traductrice;
Christine Lemaire;
Claudie Hovington, Organisatrice communautaire, L'Alliance des femmes;
Cynthia Damboise, Coordonnatrice, Centre des femmes du Ô Pays;
Daniel Hadley;
Danielle Hébert, Retraitée;
David Alper, Professeur de travail social;
Denise Buist, Centre de femmes de Shawinigan;
Denise Pothier, Centre femmes de Mékinac;
Denise M. Blais, Artiste multidisplinaire;
Diana Lombardi, Réseau d'action des femmes en santé et services sociaux – Montréal;
Diane M. Caron;
Diane Desrosiers, La Gigogne;
Dominic Ponton, Chercheur;
Dominique Podvin, Coordonnatrice, Centre Femmes de Portneuf;
Edith Tremblay;
Electra Dalamagas, Superviseure-intervenante familiale, Autisme Montréal;
Elisa Besner-Ali;
Élisabeth Germain;
Elise Sicard, Retraitée, éducation nationale;
Élise Landriault-Dupont, Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la région de la Capitale-Nationale;
Elizabeth Burton;
Ellen Sweeney;
Élyse Arcand;
Emilie Fournier;
Emilie Bourassa;
Emma Husser, Étudiante;
Esther Prince, Coordonnatrice des initiatives en sécurité alimentaire;
Ethel Saltzman;
Ettiaka Tanoe;
Eveline Lemieux, Directrice chez Emballage Bee Sustainable;
France LeBlanc, Femmes en Mouvement;
Francia Gallego;
Gabrielle Juneau, Sexologue;
Gabrielle Juneau, Quartier des Femmes;
Gaetanne St-Hilaire;
Genevieve Verreault;
Geneviève Tardif;
Geneviève Royer;
Gina Philie;
Hanna Cabrera;
Hélène Lagacé;
Ikrame Rguioui;
Imane Masmoudi, Consultante;
Isabelle Coutant;
Isabelle Thérien;
Isabelle Pepin;
Isbath Sanni, Coordonnatrice, Centre de recherche en écotoxicologie du Québec;
Jacqueline Chamberland;
Jane McArthur, PhD;
Jane Critchlow;
Jeannine Bellemare, AQDR;
Jeannine Bellemare, Retraitée;
Jena Webb, PhD;
Jessica René;
Joanne Blais, TCMFM;
Jocelyne Boulais, Retraitée;
Jocelyne Morissette;
Johanne Alarie, Intervenante communautaire, Centre Entre-Femmes;
Johanne Philipps;
Josée Robidas, Intervenante psychosociale, Ainsi soit-elle Centre de femmes Chambly;
Julie Desrosiers, Coach en mieux-être de la femme;
Julie Gillet, Regroupement Féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick;
Julie Raby, Coordonnatrice de projets, Relais-femmes;
Julie Antoine, Réseau des Lesbiennes du Québec;
Julie Champagne, Autisme Montréal;
Julieth Maussa Lopez, Intervenante communautaire;
Karine Giguere, Coordonnatrice, Centre de femmes La Moisson;
Kate Bouchard, Agente de recherche et de planification;
Kathryn Aitken;
Kathy Côté, ADIM BSLGIM;
Kathy Bouffard;
Laurence Raynault-Rioux, Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances;
Lesley Levy, Retired;
Line Bergeron, La Maison des Femmes Sourdes de Montréal;
Lise Courteau, Association féministe d'éducation et d'action sociale (Afeas);
Lise Goulet, Conseillère politique, Centrale des syndicats du Québec;
Lise Courteau, Association féministe d'éducation et d'action sociale (Afeas);
Lorraine Fontaine, Regroupement Naissances Respectées;
Lou Paris;
Lou Nelson;
Louise Dionne, Centre-femmes de Rimouski;
Luz Ibarra, Agente de développement;
Lydya Assayag, Directrice, Réseau québécois d'action pour la santé des femmes (RQASF);
Lynda Leblanc, Femmes en Mouvement;
Lyne Chauvette, Étudiante;
Manon Monastesse, Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes;
Maria Anney, Sociologue, citoyenne;
Marie David;
Marie-Andrée Gauthier, Coordonnatrice générale, Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec (RTRGFQ);
Marie-Christine Lafrenière, Candidate au Doctorat;
Marie-Claude Desrochers, Orthophoniste;
Marie-Claude Goudreault, Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs;
Marie-Claude Barbier;
Marie-Danielle Larocque, ConcertAction Femmes Estrie;
Marie-Ève Desforges, Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine;
Marie-Ève Sirard;
Marie-Helene Deshaies;
Marie-Hélène Larose-Truchon;
Marie-Josée Marotte, Centre de femmes l'Éclaircie;
Marie-Josée Tétreault;
Marie-Laure Leymonie, Coordonnatrice finances;
Marielle Savard;
Marie-Lynne Brodeur, Organisatrice communautaire;
Marlo Turner, Owner & Principal Consultant, Social Impact Consulting / Conseil Impact Social;
Maryam Shakouri, Commis Comptable;
Mathilde Lussier, Intervenante sociale;
Maude Chalvin, Médiatrice;
Megan Provis, Technicienne travail social;
Melanie Murray;
Mélanie Ederer, Fédération des femmes du Québec;
Michael Cassaignan, Citoyen;
Michele Bourgon;
Micheline Ferron;
Micheline Guillaume, Centre des Femmes du Témiscouata;
Michelle Rinfret;
Minerva Gutierrez;
Moira Keigher;
Monique Petit;
Monique Boily;
Muzhgan Haydary;
Mya Robert, Agente de projet;
Natalie Ethier;
Nathaly Gagnon, Planificatrice financière;
Patricia Kearns;
Pauline Le Tron, Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale;
Pierrette Daviau Tigre;
Martine Poirier, Centre des femmes du Ô Pays;
Rachel Lacoste;
Rachel Halle;
Ramaelle Duquette;
Rohini Peris, Présidente, L’Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec;
Roxanne Ocampo;
Ruth Altminc;
Ruth Gover;
Sabrina Laurin-Forest;
Sakina Masmoudi;
Sarah-Jane Roy-Beauregard, Centre de santé des femmes de la Mauricie;
Selina Cruz;
Sophie Bruneau;
Sophie Flammier;
Susan Mullan, Infirmière retraitée;
Suzanne Tremblay, Chargée de cours;
Suzanne Labrie;
Sylvie Gagnon;
Sylvie Lévesque, Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec;
Sylvie St-Amand, Co-coordonnatrice, L'R des centres de femmes du Québec;
Valerie Bell;
Valéry Psyché;
Veronika Storck;
Veronique Pronovost;
Veronique Dommerc, Co-coordonnatrice, Centre des femmes de Laval;
Véronique Martineau, Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal;
Vicky Brazeau, CAFA;
Violaine Langlois;
Viorica Lorcencova;
Virginie Legault, Quartier des femmes;
Yannick Nombré, Étudiant;
Yveline Ghariani

cc :
Monique Pauzé, Bloc Québécois
Porte-parole en matière d’environnement
Laurel Collins, NDP
Environment Critic
Kyle Seeback, Conservative Party
Environment Critic
Luc Thériault, Bloc Québécois
Porte-parole en matière de santé
Don Davies, NDP
Health Critic
Michael Barrett, Conservative Party
Health Critic
Andréanne Larouche, Bloc Québécois
Porte-parole en matière de condition féminine et égalité des genres
Leah Gazan, NDP
Women and Gender Equality Critic
Karen Vecchio, Conservative Party
Women and Gender Equality Critic