Proposed Canadian Approach to Regulating Nanoscale Substances & Chemicals


Issue Summary

  • bar codeAs part of Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), Environment Canada and Health Canada are proposing a new approach to address certain nanomaterials under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
  • Environment Canada and Health Canada have prepared a Stakeholder Consultation Document to solicit feedback on controlling nanoscale substances on the Domestic Substances List.
  • The Government will collect information from stakeholders to assist in estimating consumers’ exposure to nanoscale substances. This in turn will assist them to determine if regulatory limits on use are required.

Current Situation

  • Nanomaterials are increasingly being used in a wide range of regulated substances and products within a variety of sectors. Canada has sought to define nanomaterials (see here) and has utilized the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council in pursuit of a regulatory model for the technology (see here).
  • A major pre-occupation of Government officials is health and safety, as well as how to deal with environmental issues associated with these products.
  • This latest consultation from Environment Canada and Health Canada will serve as a starting point for dialogue with stakeholders. Once the consultation document is posted on the CEPA Registry the public comment period will close after 60 days.


  • Regulators are trying to both encourage the development of the technology and its application while wrestling with the consumer safety and public perception issues of safety.
  • The Government’s proposed approach in this latest consultation document seeks to establish a list of existing nanomaterials being used in Canada. A mandatory CEPA Section 71 survey will be used; company responses to such surveys are required by law.
  • This approach is a normal course of action under the CMP and the information the government receives will dictate the terms by which nanomaterials will be assessed, classified and potentially controlled in Canada. Ensuring an accurate and complete picture of the uses and purposes of each nanoscale material is essential for industry.
  • Where the use of a specific nanoscale substance is not properly documented, companies in the future may be challenged or possibly denied continued use of the substance in such a manner.
  • As well, if information on a nanoscale substance is not made available and there is knowledge of its use, the government will make assumptions on exposure and risk, which can lead to unwarranted restrictions.
  • Uses not accounted for can be reassessed under the Significant New Activity (SNAc) process. SNAc assessment prohibits using, manufacturing or importing more than 100 kg of the substance until specified information is provided and an assessment period has expired. This could lead to: delays in production/importation; lack of alternative substitutes; and additional costs due to disruption of supply chain.


  • Companies and industry trade association should evaluate their level of participation in this latest consultation.
  • Industry leaders should monitor the situation closely to ensure any regulatory controls that are applied are proportionate and based on sound science so to avoid compromising the innovative and commercial benefits from nanoscale materials.
  • At the same time, industry will want to be sensitive to the growing public scrutiny with the use of nanoscale materials, particularly among activist NGOs.
  • Going forward, it will be crucial for industry and related stakeholders to:
    • Stay very close to the political and regulatory process;
    • Participate in and manage public consultations to ensure they are focused and fact based; and
    • Understand how public perceptions and concerns impact policy makers’ decisions on controlling potential health and environment

For more Information, please contact:

Gil Barrows (1-613-783-3444)
Michael Mactaggart (1-416-597-3473)