Cablegate: Canada Likely to Label Plastic Ingredient 'Toxic'
PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #0538/01 1091450
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181450Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7714
INFO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHPS/USMISSION OECD PARIS
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 1807
RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000538
STATE FOR WHA/CAN, EEB, OES
DHHS FOR OFFICE OF GLOBAL HEALTH AFFAIRS
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
STATE PASS FDA INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
COMMERCE FOR 4310/MAC/ONA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD TBIO SENV EAGR EIND CA
SUBJECT: Canada Likely to Label Plastic Ingredient 'Toxic'
Sensitive but Unclassified, please protect accordingly. Not for
1. (SBU) Summary - As early as April 18 Canada may declare the
chemical bisphenol A (BPA), widely used in plastics, toxic under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This is likely to
precipitate additional widespread public concern in both Canada and
the United States. We understand that American authorities are
also examining the health effects of the chemical, but rapid
developments in Canada could lead to divergence between U.S. and
Canadian policy in managing the chemical, with significant
implications for the massive food, beverage and products trade
across our borders. In anticipation of the official announcement,
Wal-Mart Canada has pulled many plastic food containers, water
bottles and baby products from its shelves. Embassy would appreciate
media guidance with respect to U.S. policy on BPA. End summary and
2. (U) According to knowledgeable observers in Ottawa the Canadian
government is ready to declare as "Toxic" the chemical bisphenol A
(BPA), widely used to make polycarbonate plastic baby bottles,
beverage and food containers. BPA is also used to produce epoxy
resin linings in food and beverage cans. The formal announcement,
which may come as early as Friday, April 18, is based on a Canadian
federal risk assessment of the chemical, which began in late 2006 as
part of the government's "Chemicals Management Plan" to review
several hundred potentially problematic chemicals in Canada. Canada
would be the first country to formally declare BPA a health hazard
and sanction constraints on its use.
3. (U) A "Toxic" designation under the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act" (CEPA) designation does not automatically mean an
immediate outright ban, or even restrictions, on the substance;
although restrictions or prohibitions on the use of the chemical in
certain products could be a likely end result. Typically a "Toxic"
designation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act" (CEPA)
would be followed by a long process (several months at least) of
public consultation involving industry, the government and the
interested public to develop regulations, guidelines or codes of
practice to manage the substance's life cycle from research and
development through manufacture, use, storage, transport and
ultimate disposal or recycling.
4. (U) A sub-category of "Toxic" substances, those which are also
bio-accumulative, persistent, and anthropogenic, may be proposed for
"Virtual Elimination" (i.e. not allowed above detectable limits).
However, Canada's initial characterization of BPA in 2006 suggested
it was not considered persistent or bio-accumulative, and is
unlikely to meet Canada's "Virtual Elimination" criteria.
5. (SBU) Observers note that the high profile public attention
given to this chemical over the past year may prompt the government
to accelerate the process to develop a management plan for the
chemical. Indeed, the government was not scheduled to announce the
findings of its BPA review until May, but a leak to the press about
the "Toxics" designation on April 14 has forced the government's
hand, and the report will now be officially released early.
6. (SBU) One well-placed industry observer notes the leak
Q6. (SBU) One well-placed industry observer notes the leak
effectively means the government has ceded the political management
and timing of the policy response to anti-BPA advocates. In that
observer's opinion the government will be forced to react to public
demands, much of it fostered by self-interested advocates, for rapid
"hard-hitting" action. More broadly, the perceived politicization
of the government's "Chemicals Management Plan", he said, will erode
the industry's goodwill toward the multi-year chemical reassessment
7. (U) The marketplace is reacting with alacrity to the perceived
consumer demand for action. Wal-Mart Canada cleared its store
shelves on April 16 of all plastic food containers, water bottles,
baby bottles, "sippy cups" and pacifiers containing BPA.
"Irrespective of the pending science, it's an issue of trust for us,
and our customers need to know they can shop with confidence at
Wal-Mart, particularly in the baby aisle," said Wal-Mart Canada's
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Director of Corporate Affairs Kevin Groh.
8. (U) The federal finding will also likely influence the provinces
of Ontario and Quebec who are currently engaged in their own
assessment of BPA's health impact.
9. (SBU) Action Request: It is worth noting that the leak of the
Canadian position coincided with the release of the draft report on
BPA from the United States National Toxicology Program, which in its
preliminary draft found "some" health impact concerns. Given rapid
developments on the issue, and the high public profile this chemical
has on both sides of the border, we are conscious of the potential
for policy and regulatory divergence between Canada and the United
States. Embassy would appreciate internal guidance on U.S.
government policy related to BPA and media talking points.