Victory at Toronto Board of Health

Victory! Toronto’s Board of Health has agreed to prevent pollution and develop a consumer right-to-know display for toxic dry cleaning chemicals thanks to TEA's latest campaign.

Perhaps the best way to celebrate a campaign anniversary is a victory at City Hall.


Just one year ago, TEA launched our Coming Clean Going Green project and Dry Cleaning Scorecard to draw attention to the toxic chemicals used at dry cleaners and identify the truly green alternatives on the market. At the Board of Health last week, we helped chart a new and exciting path for toxics reduction in the City of Toronto.

It took a year of research, another year of campaigning and many stakeholder meetings in recent months to get here. TEA kept pressing forward inch by inch. We organized meetings and visited dry cleaners across the city. We ran a consumer campaign, reached out to media and industry representatives, collaborated with environmental researchers and public health staff, and even got advice from some chemical policy folks from Massachusetts and California along the way. And then we met with City Hall decision-makers and presented them with a path forward. All of these activities led us to the victories we had last week at the Board of Health meeting.

At the meeting, two TEA staff made deputations. Thank you to Paul Mercer (Ecopure Cleaners) and Brian Hatt (Harco Co Ltd.) for also speaking at the meeting about their experience in toxic free wet cleaning! Sid Chelsky from the Ontario Fabricare Association also addressed the board, to show support for better regulation within the dry cleaning sector.  We were also joined by Muhannad Malas from Environmental Defense, who we had collaborated with on a pocket Guide to Non Toxic Dry Cleaning.

The stakeholder engagement and government relations work TEA did leading up to the Board of Health meeting really came through when Councillor Doucette moved our motions about a window display for consumer 'right to know' and stricter regulation of the other dry cleaning solvents entering our sewers. Councillor Mihevc added another motion asking the Province to help fund the transition to wet cleaning! TEA and the dry cleaning stakeholders helped Toronto Public Health identify key challenges and solutions to transition the sector away from harmful chemical solvents.

There was unanimous support from the Board of Health members and a commitment from Toronto Public Health staff team that they will do the work to make this a reality.

Here's the exact wording of what motions were passed: 

The Board of Health:

1.  Requested the Medical Officer of Health to continue to explore opportunities for pollution prevention with the business associations and other stakeholders for the following sectors: auto body painting and repair, dry cleaning, fabricated metal product manufacturing, food manufacturing and wood product manufacturing;

2.  Requested the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to update the "Dry Cleaners Environmental Management Training Course" manual with the latest information available on water-based professional garment cleaning; and

3.  Requested the Medical Officer of Health to collaborate with the Director, Purchasing and Materials Management Division to include water-based cleaning as an environmentally preferred service when the City tenders for professional garment cleaning services.

4.  Requested the Medical Officer of Health to report back in 2017 on the implementation of a point-of-sale display program requiring all dry cleaners to clearly disclose to customers the types of solvents used to clean garments and any known hazards these solvents pose to public health.

5.  Requested the Medical Officer of Health to collaborate with the General Manager, Toronto Water to ensure that solvents and other toxic chemicals used and potentially released to sewers by the following sectors be included in Toronto Water’s current review of the Sewers By-law subject pollutants: auto body painting and repair, dry cleaning, fabricated metal product manufacturing, food manufacturing and food product manufacturing.

6.  Requested the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to institute an incentive program to encourage the transition from the use of perchloroethylene in dry cleaning to water-based professional cleaning as the most economically viable and environmentally preferred method for garment care.

You can read more, including the written statements submitted by TEA and the OFA, at this link: