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Beach Triangle Residents Association

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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Right to Know Bylaw

By David Windrim

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On December 1, 2008 Toronto City Council adopted an Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program. The program includes a new bylaw that will require businesses and City operations to publicly report their use and release of 25 hazardous chemicals. The reporting bylaw will come into effect on January 1, 2010. Reporting will be phased in over four years and will pro vide new supports for businesses to track and report chemicals and to adopt measures to prevent pollution and reduce chemicals.

Sometimes referred to as "community right-to-know", these types of programs have been successful across North America in reducing hazardous chemicals by stimulating pollution prevention.

This program has been three years in the making. Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, identified the priority substances of concern in our local environment. These substances are commonly used or released by industrial, commercial and institutional facilities. Toronto Public Health (TPH) reviewed approaches used across North America to reduce these substances, and consulted extensively with businesses, residents and community organizations.

The Medical Officer of Health is concerned about the long-term, combined health risk from thousands of facilities in Toronto using and releasing these substances, often within or close to residential neighbourhoods. The most common way people are exposed is through the air, and most of the priority substances are present in our air at levels that are of concern to health. The Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program has two components; mandatory reporting on priority substances, and support for implementation of pollution prevention measures. The mandatory reporting program is designed to be a minimal burden on businesses, and the pollution prevention program is designed to benefit businesses.

The following chemicals or by-products of industrial processes will be reportable: Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Benzene, 1,3-Butadiene, Cadmium, Carbon tetrachloride, Chromium (Hexavalent and Nonhexavalent), Chloroform (Trichloromethane), 1,2-Dibromo ethane (Ethylene dibromide), 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, 1,2-Dichloroethane (Ethylene dichloride), Dichloromethane (Methylene chloride), Formaldehyde, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Nickel, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene), Trichloroethylene, Vinyl chloride, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

These substances may be used or released in a variety of operations, including chemical manufacturing, food and beverage production, automotive repair and laboratories. For example, trichloroethylene and dichloromethane are common cleaning solvents that may be used in sectors such as manufacturing, chemicals distribution and food and beverage production. The reporting bylaw will come into effect on January 1, 2010, with phase one reporting of 2010 data by June 30, 2011. The public will be able to view the results via the Internet by January 2012. We will provide ongoing information on this program in future newsletters. Additional information may be accessed at the City of Toronto website at www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/enviro_info.htm.