February 2, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Lise Bourgault

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Bourgault:

No, in 1987. The first one of its kind to be published by any government in the world. Although provincial departments across the country approved these guidelines, they are neither compulsory nor binding. However, it is expected they will help individuals and public agencies to be consistent in their assessments of the need for corrective action. In the longer term, these national guidelines will be used as a basis for developing or modifying the building code, standards for construction materials and furnishings, and ventilation requirements.
The department developed these guidelines in June 1980 when the Ontario Deputy Minister of Health requested a federal-provincial study that would set standards for air quality in new residential housing projects. A proposal to form a task force on indoor air quality was officially tabled at a meeting in October 1980 of the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health. I mention this so that people who are interested will realize there are a number of committees and that a number of things have been done in recent years. The deputy ministers of health subsequently approved the proposal. The advisory committee created the federal-provincial task force on indoor air quality, whose mandate would be to examine a definition of acceptable air quality, the need to establish acceptable objectives and maximum acceptable concentrations of specific substances, and standards for ventilation or air recirculation. The scope of the mandate was restricted to residential establishments and the task force was to make recommendations designed to protect the public, based on constant exposure, in other words, 24 hours a day.
When it wrote these guidelines, the department wanted to protect the health of the great majority of the general public, including groups at risk like very young children, the elderly and persons with known health problems. These groups are especially concerned with indoor air quality because, as we know, they spend most of their time indoors. The department set itself two major objectives: (1). To develop guidelines on the concentrations of particular air contaminants in homes, taking account of factors like the sensitivity of groups at risk and the sources and modes of action of the contaminants; (2). To develop as much as possible other guidelines or recommendations on measures to protect or improve air quality in domestic establishments.
The federal-provincial task force met for the first time in September 1981 under the aegis of the Department of National Health and Welfare. In the next four years it collected and examined scientific documentation on 18 substances or groups of substances before setting the guidelines and recommendations contained in the document published by the Minister of National Health and Welfare in April 1987.
The government agreed in principle to update the guidelines in 1992-93 so that is now going on. The group will consider other substances to be added to the guidelines. If it seems possible to develop guidelines on these substances the work will again be facilitated by the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health.
That is why the very existence of these guidelines, combined with the research now under way in various federal government departments, shows that we have implemented a national strategy for reducing the threats posed by exposure to contaminants in indoor air.
Also, our government's tobacco policy is another measure that has particularly improved indoor air quality in public buildings. Nevertheless, it should not be taken for granted that everything is going well. As a member of Parliament when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare, I had to deal with the case of a citizen who is fighting a constant struggle throughout the country with the problems of asthma and the possibility that he might have to work or even live in buildings that are insulated in different ways.
February 2, 1993

I think that we are doing many things, but fully regulating single-family homes in Canada is still a long way off. Nevertheless we must continue to work for increased protection of the health of Canadians, especially those who work in public, semi-public and even private buildings, because health is a subject that concerns all Canadians. Health costs being so high, it is obviously desirable to implement all kinds of preventive policies.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate.

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