Mrs. Lise Bourgault (Argenteuil-Papineau):
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity this evening to take part in this debate on air quality.
Private Members' Business
We all know that air pollution has been recognized for quite some time as a serious threat to health. Air pollution has probably focussed the public's attention on the quality of our environment to a greater extent than has any other form of environmental deterioration. Since the 15th century, smoke and the odours emanating from burning coal were considered a public nuisance. Laws designed to control point source emissions have been part of the history of most industrialized countries and were passed many years ago.
Interestingly, indoor air quality did not become a subject of debate and intense research until quite recently. The recent flurry of activity proves that indoor air quality has become a major health concern, especially in this country, where we unfortunately spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors.
Here in Canada, we had the controversy about urea formaldehyde foam insulation. You will recall the UFFI debate and the government's ban in 1980 which I think was a major factor in drawing the public's attention to the problem of indoor air quality. Reports on scientific studies which showed a higher concentration of chemical contaminants indoors than outdoors have tended to heighten these concerns. Furthermore, office employees claim that current energy conservation practices in large office buildings are responsible for poor air quality.
No single Canadian agency has full responsibility for investigating and checking the potential impact on health of air contaminants inside residences. In the case of residential buildings, the government's presence is perceived by some as an intrusion, by others as a necessity. The wide range of strategies and approaches for controlling exposure to indoor air contaminants are an indication of the complexity of the problem. Finally, controlling indoor air contaminants involves measures such as ventilation, removal or replacement of sources of air contaminants, making changes so as to avoid contaminant sources, air purification, restrictions on household use of potentially hazardous chemical products, certification programs for builders and trades people, compulsory courses for engineers and building designers and educational programs for the general public.
Private Members' Business
Corrective measures may include a balanced application of several of these approaches, which are not necessarily incompatible. Standards or criteria defining air quality levels that are conducive to health and comfort must be used to determine to what extent controls are necessary. That is why in 1987, the Department of National Health and Welfare published the following document: Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality.
Subtopic: INDOOR AIR QUALITY ACT