Toronto's ground-breaking Community Right-to-Know by-law is vital to our environmental and public health. Toronto's ChemTRAC program gives the public access to information on local toxic substances and will help communities work for pollution prevention and toxics reduction.
Toronto is an environmental leader. The Environmental Reporting and Disclosure by-law is the first of it’s kind in Canada. Once again, Toronto has taken the lead and set a new green standard. This type of legislation has a proven track record in the United States and is long overdue in Canada.
There is so much we don’t know about toxic substances in Toronto. There are more toxins in our air than what’s accounted for. That’s because the federal and provincial governments only require large industries to report on their chemical releases, which ignores the thousands of small and medium sized industries, commercial establishments and institutions that also emit these substances. We need to better understand the cumulative impacts of substances in our air and water - and that requires casting the net much wider that is has been in the past.
What gets measured gets managed. By measuring and reporting the use and release of key substances that harm our health and the environment, businesses will become more aware of opportunities to manage these substances and prevent pollution. Likewise, Toronto Public Health and other City departments will be able to prioritize key neighbourhoods, substances or sectors where they can provide assistance to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.
We have a right to know about toxins found in our communities and workplaces. The 25 substances that must be reported on are found in our air at levels that are a health concern. While some of these substances contribute to smog (which is to blame for approximately 1,700 premature deaths in Toronto each year), others are known to cause cancer or pose other serious health risks. Now that we know what we have a right to know what we’re breathing in, we can begin to take appropriate steps to protect our health. There are ways to control the use and release of these substances and minimize exposure in our workplaces and communities.
- Mandatory reporting, voluntary reductions. We have everything to gain from the ChemTRAC program and nothing to lose because it is completely up to the company to decide if they wish to develop an action plan to control, reduce or eliminate these substances from their facility. Other jurisdictions that have a similar by-law have found that businesses often take steps to control these substances because it is in their best interest. In fact, a number of Toronto businesses have already undertaken pollution prevention in their facilities and have reported a number of benefits including greater efficiencies, increased profitability, lower business risks, healthier employees and improved community relations.