The federal environment commissioner says Ottawa needs to improve its approaches to severe weather and cosmetics.
The Spring report from commissioner Julie Gelfand says the major wildfire burning in the Fort McMurray area that forced 80,000 people to flee is just one of the recent, large-scale national disasters. Gelfand’s report says the country’s floodplain maps have not been updated in 20 years, building codes have not been revised to account for changing climate and decision makers need better ways to predict the frequency, duration and intensity of storms. The report says homes and buildings constructed under current codes may not be strong enough to withstand extraordinary snow loads associated with changing climates. It says municipalities need help understanding how extreme rainfail expected in the future could affect the size of culverts.
Gelfand says the federal government’s disaster assistance relief fund has paid out more in the past six years than it did in the fund’s previous 39 years of existence. She says those recent financial costs show the importance of mitigating severe weather to help save lives, reduce economic disruptions and ultimately save money.
Another part of the report focuses on cosmetics. Gelfand says Health Canada doesn’t regularly test cosmetics for harmful or prohibited substances and, unlike other consumer products, there’s no legal requirement to report adverse health and safety incidents. She recommends Ottawa develop a system to encourage manufacturers to provide a complete, confidential list of the secret ingredients in their products to check them against known safety concerns. Gelfand says Health Canada has no powers under the Food and Drug Act to order a recall of cosmetic products.
The report says millions of consumers lack the information to make informed choices about the makeup, creams and other beauty product they use. The problem is getting worse thanks to the growing electronic commerce market. The commissioner says consumers need to be informed that marketing terms such as hypoallergenic, preservative-free, fragrance-free or unscented have no validity in terms of health and safety.