CEPA and the Canadian Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances

To protect the environment and human health, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) regulates toxic substances under the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations. These regulations prohibit the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, or import of certain toxic substances. Accordingly, CEPA may modify the list of toxic substances as and when required.

The Enviropass Approach for CEPA Compliance

Enviropass is a Canadian-based consulting company serving manufacturers and importers worldwide. We can help you comply with the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations.

CEPA Compliance

What is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act - CEPA?

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA, 1999) is one of the most significant laws in Canada that intends to contribute to sustainable development by respecting pollution prevention and protecting the environment and human health. Furthermore, this act regulates the assessment and management of chemical substances, specifically toxic ones.

CEPA Regulation

What are the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations?

Government Canada CEPA - Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances

In essence, the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012, prevents the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, or import of a list of toxic substances and the products containing them. CEPA publishes the list of substances subject to these regulations on its registry website. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act declared these substances toxic to the environment and human health. Typically, these substances are also persistent and bioaccumulative.

It should be noted that CEPA may amend these regulations periodically by adding new substances or adapting the requirements.

Primarily, there were a few exemptions to these restrictions. However, the amendment -explained below- tends to remove, or provide time limits for these exemptions, exclusively for those related to PFOA, PFOS, LC-PFCAs, PBDEs, and HBCD.

Amendment to the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations under CEPA

On December 20th, 2018, CEPA published a consultation document intending to amend the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations. In particular, the purpose of this amendment is to phase out the use of the following CEPA toxic substances:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and precursors
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), its salts and precursors
  • Long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (LC-PFCAs), their salts and precursors
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which is also a RoHS substance in electronics
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)

The first three above substances are well-known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Furthermore, this amendment bans the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, and import of two additional toxic substances and products containing them:

  • Decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), and
  • Dechlorane plus (DP).

Most of these seven substances are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) in the environment and can move long distances. Consequently, they threaten some Canadian ecosystems, including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale and the Saint Lawrence Estuary Beluga. Therefore, it is critical to further restrict these substances through regulations and decrease their concentration to the lowest possible levels in the Canadian environment. The USA (TSCA-PBT) and Europe (POP – Halogen-free) also control persistent organic pollutants.

Why does CEPA Regulate PFAS with the Prohibition of Certain Toxic SubstancesRegulations?

PFASs are Used Virtually Everywhere

PFASs are a group of human-made chemicals. They are generally resistant to oil, water, and heat. Various consumer, industrial, and commercial products contain PFAS, including:

  • Insulating cables in different electrical and electronic products,
  • Solar panels,
  • Cleaning products,
  • Fire-fighting foams,
  • Textiles (e.g., furniture, carpets, cloths)
  • Food packaging,
  • Food processing equipment,
  • Cookware,
  • Cosmetics, etc.

Three well-known PFASs are:

  • PFOA (which is part of the perfluoro carboxylic acids (PFCAs) family and have a molecular formula of C7F15CO2H),
  • PFOS (with the molecular formulas of C8F17SO2, C8F17SO3, or C8F17SO2N), and
  • LC-PFCAs (with the molecular formula of CnF2n+1CO2H in which 8 ≤ n ≤ 20).

Environmental Concerns with PFAS

PFASs could adversely impact the environment and human health. Interestingly, scientists have found these substances in the blood of humans and animals worldwide. Specifically, these are some of the harmful effects of PFASs on human health:

  • Rising cholesterol levels
  • Changing enzymes in the liver
  • Increasing risk of kidney or testicular cancer
  • Raising blood pressure, especially in pregnant women causing hypertension and preeclampsia disease
  • Reducing vaccine efficiency in children
  • Rising risk of thyroid disease
PFAS and Health

There are also environmental concerns over PFASs since they are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT). They are known as “Forever Chemicals” due to their tremendously long life in the environment. Furthermore, scientists have detected PFASs in drinking water, municipal wastewater, and landfills.

Therefore, the Government of Canada has prohibited these dangerous substances through various regulations, including the previously mentioned Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

PBDEs are brominated flame retardants. There are more than 200 substances in the family of PBDEs such as tetraBDE, pentaBDE, hexaBDE, heptaBDE, octaBDE, nonaBDE, and decaBDE. Various products contain PBDEs, including:

  • Electrical and electronics,
  • Furniture,
  • Building materials,
  • Automobiles and airplanes,
  • Plastics, and
  • Textiles.

If a certain amount of PBDEs enter the environment, they can cause immediate or long-term adverse impacts. These chemicals can result in thyroid and liver problems not only in animals but also in humans. As a result, many countries internationally have regulated PBDEs based on their concentrations and applications in different products.

PBDEs in Electronics

For example, such regulations in the electrical and electronic industry are:

  • EU RoHS
  • China RoHS
  • India RoHS
  • Saudi Arabia RoHS
  • United Arab Emirate RoHS

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)

HBCD is another brominated flame retardant. In Canada, the application of this substance is limited to the automotive sector. However, some products made from recycled plastics may contain small amounts of HBCD. Moreover, the building and constructions industry and electronics have historically utilized this substance in their operations.
HBCD is dangerous to the environment due to its toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation characteristics. Consequently, this chemical has been on the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) list under the European REACH regulation since October 28th, 2008.

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)

Decabromodiphenyl Ethane (DBDPE)

DBDPE is an organic flame-retardant substance. In Canada, many applications use DBDPE as an additive to slow the combustion and spread of fire, such as:

Decabromodiphenyl Ethane (DBDPE)
  • Plastic (primarily thin plastics) and rubber materials
  • Electrical and electronic products, and
  • Adhesives and sealants.

DBDPE poses a risk of harm to the environment. Indeed, the environmental degradation of DBDPE is slow and could produce persistent and bioaccumulative substances which are specifically very toxic to aquatic organisms. In addition, several studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of DBDPE on the liver, thyroid, reproduction, and neurons of animals.

Dechlorane plus (DP)

DP is an organic substance used as an additive flame retardant to slow the start or spread of fire. Many applications use this substance, such as:

  • Electrical and electronics products (e.g., Wire and cable coating),
  • Appliances,
  • Automotive,
  • Plastics (e.g., Nylon, Polyolefin heat shrink, EPDM), etc.


DP may cause adverse effects on the environment due to its persistence and bioaccumulation characteristics.

Hence, in January 2018, European Chemical Agency (ECHA) recognized DP as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under the REACH regulation.

Dechlorane plus (DP)

Beyond CEPA

Other Canadian regulations apply to products, such as the Canadian Energy Efficiency Regulations 2016 (SOR/2016-311)

Are these regulations and their amendments affecting the compliance of your products and services? Reach out to the Enviropass team to get help and consultation for your environmental obligations.