Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Environment and Natural Resources
Issue 9 - Evidence
Ottawa, Thursday, February 6, 1997
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources,
to which was referred Bill C-29, to regulate interprovincial trade in and the
importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese-based substances, met
this day at 9:10 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Ron Ghitter (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, we have with us today a panel composed of
officials from Health Canada and Transport Canada. We will start with Health
Canada and move to Transport Canada. Members of the committee will ask
questions after each department makes its submission.
Mr. Daniel Krewski, Acting Director, Bureau of Chemical Hazards, Health Canada:
Mr. Chairman, I am currently Acting Director of the Bureau of Chemical Hazards
in the Environmental Health Directorate of Health Canada. My field of expertise
is in the area of health risk assessment. I have served on national and
international committees to investigate the risks to health of various
environmental contaminants. One of my more recent appointments was to serve on
the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of
Infants and Children, which dealt with scientific issues of health risk and the
regulatory issues that arose from this in a somewhat similar context to the MMT
I should like to point out that the Minister of Health supports the bill to ban
the sale and interprovincial commerce of the gasoline additive MMT. We have
been told that the manganese from the gasoline additive MMT has the potential
to cause the failure of the on-board diagnostic systems now being installed in
new vehicles to control combustion and reduce car emissions. This could result
in increased emissions of various combustion products such as nitrogen oxides,
hydrocarbons, including benzine and carbon monoxide as air pollutants, although
the information on exactly what changes will occur is somewhat conflicting.
We are already concerned that current air pollutants, specifically ozone and
particulate matter of various types, are causing adverse health impacts, noted
as increases in hospitalizations, in major Canadian cities. Vehicle emissions
comprise a sizeable proportion of this air pollution in many parts of the
country. Therefore, any measure designed ultimately to reduce vehicle emissions
is worthy of support.
Many of you are aware that in December 1994, Health Canada completed a risk
assessment on the health implications of the manganese combustion products of
MMT. The main conclusion of this assessment was that the manganese emissions
from MMT are unlikely to pose a risk to health for any subgroup in the
Average ambient air manganese levels in urban areas were less than one-half of a
reference concentration of 0.1 micrograms per cubic metre. Estimates of human
exposure based on these current monitoring results indicated that 98 to 99 per
cent of the population exposures would be below this reference value. The
report did not attempt to look at the effect of MMT on the other
combustion-related emissions from vehicles, for which information is extremely
sparse, nor did it attempt to examine the effects on emissions of other
potential substitutes for MMT. These latter points are the subject of other
ongoing evaluation processes in both Health Canada and Environment Canada.
It is also not within the purview of Health Canada to assess the claims that MMT
damages pollution control equipment in cars. Questions of this nature are left
to officials in Environment Canada who have the competency required for such
New regulations for further control of car emissions cannot move forward until
the MMT question is settled. While there are uncertainties about exactly what
effect the removal of MMT will have on emissions, the government has decided
that the time has come for a proactive and precautionary approach, that of
phasing-out MMT additives.
The risk assessment undertaken by Health Canada examined the available data on
the neurotoxicity of inhaled manganese in humans and animals, and on that
basis, with the incorporation of appropriate uncertainty factors, selected a
reference level of 0.1 micrograms of manganese per cubic metre of air. That was
considered to be a level of exposure without significant risk of adverse
neurological effects for any age group in the population.
It should be noted that the lowest levels of manganese associated with
neurological effects were found in occupationally exposed workers who are
relatively healthy in comparison with the general population. These levels were
several hundred times higher than the reference level. This meant that high
uncertainty factors had to be applied to assure protection for more susceptible
groups in the population. Although other health points such as respiratory
effects have been associated with occupational manganese exposure, neurological
effects are the most sensitive, and a criterion derived for these will also be
protective for other health end points.
Airborne manganese is normally present in cities at an average of about 40 per
cent of the reference level even without MMT combustion sources, since
manganese is a normal and fairly abundant component of dirt and dust and is
incorporated into cement and other building materials. Wear and tear, plus
re-entrainment of dust into air through human activities ensures that airborne
manganese levels are higher in cities than in non-urban areas. Additional
contributions come from man-made sources such as steel making and welding.
Steel contains about 1 per cent manganese.
Exposures to airborne manganese were calculated for five age groups in the
population, from two Canadian cities without significant man-made sources other
than MMT, and from two cities with airborne manganese pollution from industrial
sources -- in this case, from steel mills. Exposures were calculated based on
ambient monitoring results from the monitors with the highest average manganese
levels in each city in order to provide a worst-case situation and were adjusted
to reflect personal exposures. These exposures were then compared to the
reference level we calculated.
The personal exposure of 98 to 99 per cent of the population, including all age
groups, was calculated to be below the reference level in the two cities with
only MMT as the major known man-made source, namely, Montreal, Quebec and Saint
John, New Brunswick. The conclusion was reached that, due to a lack of
sufficient exposure, MMT was unlikely to pose a health risk. This was supported
by supplementary information showing that air manganese concentrations in these
cities had not risen between 1986 and 1992, when MMT sales had almost doubled.
As with most risk assessments, a conservative approach was taken to both the
establishment of the toxicological reference level and the exposure assessment.
A very conservative reference level of 0.1 micrograms per cubic metre of air
was selected, taking into account the valence form of manganese from MMT
combustion, the increased toxicity of inhaled manganese over the ingested form,
and the variability and susceptibility of the population due to factors such as
The World Health Organization, in a very recent assessment of the same data, has
selected a somewhat higher reference value of 0.15 micrograms per cubic metre
as the basis for their air quality guidelines. This gives us increased
confidence in the conservative nature of our selected reference criteria.
With respect to exposure, the report used a worst-case measurement, as I
mentioned previously. Ambient outdoor levels may not reflect the actual
personal exposure of people due to their different activities, such as the time
spent indoors and the time spent commuting. Since we lacked personal exposure
data for a large representative sample of the Canadian population, we used
personal exposure data on a representative sample of people from the Los
Angeles area in the United States to predict personal exposures at the upper
end of the distribution curve for exposure, based on the Canadian monitoring
data instead of the modelled U.S. base-line data. The preliminary findings from
a large personal exposure survey in Toronto, which is nearing completion but is
as yet unpublished, appear to validate the Health Canada assessment that the
vast majority of people are exposed to very low levels of manganese, with 99
per cent below the reference level.
Much of the opposition to MMT on health grounds is based on the fear that
manganese from MMT will prove to be like lead from gasoline in the 1970s and
1980s. However, there are several critical differences between them. Lead is
toxic at all concentrations while manganese is an essential element required in
small amounts by cells in the body. Lead is toxic by ingestion as well as by
inhalation, while manganese is not toxic when ingested even in quite large
amounts. Much of the lead exposure by young children occurred as a secondary
result of contamination of dirt and dust, which was ingested in sufficient
amounts to raise blood levels in that age group.
Finally, lead was added to gasoline in amounts about 16 times higher than the
amount of the manganese additive, leading to higher airborne lead and higher
ground deposition. Nonetheless, considering the seriousness of the end point
and some of the uncertainties inherent in any risk assessment, it is not
inappropriate to invoke the precautionary principle in the consideration of
regulatory options to limit exposure to this substance.
In conclusion, the Health Canada assessment, based on a conservative assessment
of the scientific data, concludes that the health risks associated with
manganese emissions resulting from the use of MMT in Canadian gasoline are
negligible. However, this assessment did not attempt to look at the effect of
MMT on other combustion-related emissions.
Car emissions regulated under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act include nitrogen
oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Particulate matter is regulated only
for heavy duty diesel vehicles, but can be formed as secondary products of
primary emissions along with ozone. Non-regulated emissions include carbon
monoxide, sulphur compounds, formaldehyde and volatile organics such as
benzine. These, and other combustion-related air pollutants, could increase if
MMT is retained. Several of these, such as particulate matter, ozone and
possibly carbon monoxide, have been associated with mortality and increased
hospitalization in studies on three continents, including several Canadian
cities. These results indicate that all possible measures should be take to
reduce air pollution. Any measures, such as this bill, which is ultimately
designed to reduce vehicle emissions, should therefore be supported.
The Chairman: Thank you for your presentation, sir. We will now go to questions.
Senator Kenny: Did I understand you correctly to say that your study did not
look into the effects of MMT on on-board diagnostic equipment?
Mr. Krewski: That is correct.
Senator Kenny: Does the department have a view on whether the failure of
on-board diagnostic equipment could increase the amount of emissions from
Mr. Krewski: We have been told by our colleagues in Environment Canada that the
failure of such equipment could increase emissions of nitrogen oxides,
hydrocarbons and others.
Senator Kenny: Taking all matters into consideration, are your department and
you, personally, supporting the passage of this bill?
Mr. Krewski: Yes.
Senator Kenny: Thank you.
Senator Taylor: Have you any opinion on the substitutes for MMT, such as MTBE,
ethanol and methanol?
Mr. Krewski: MTBE was evaluated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
as a priority substance in 1992; at that time it was determined not to be toxic
to either human health or the environment. Additional data on MTBE has become
available since that time and we are currently working with the International
Program on Chemical Safety to update our assessment of MTBE. We have a meeting
of an international expert group scheduled for March which we hope will finalize
the ongoing assessment of MTBE.
Senator Taylor: And with regard to ethanol and methanol?
Mr. Krewski: There is it an ongoing assessment of ethanol. Perhaps Ms Wood could
comment on the current status of that.
Ms Grace Wood, Evaluator, Air and Waste Section, Monitoring and Criteria
Division, Bureau of Chemical Hazards, Health Canada: We are not worried about
ethanol per se. We are worried about aldehydes from both ethanol and methanol.
We are in the process of assessing what the effect of the addition of ethanol
and methanol would be on aldehydes, in particular, and on other things as well.
Senator Taylor: I understand that you did not find any manganese accumulated in
the air. However, is there any danger to mechanics, for example, who work in
close proximity to high concentrations of manganese trapped in filters?
Ms Wood: There is no danger in that.
Senator Taylor: Does manganese accumulate in the body like mercury or lead?
Ms Wood: No.
Senator Taylor: We have learned in the last couple of days that manganese is
added in quantities varying from 8 milligrams per litre to 18 milligrams per
litre. When you tested for manganese did you know how many milligrams per litre
was in the gasoline?
Ms Wood: Yes, we had an average figure. I believe it was about 10 milligrams.
Senator Taylor: Did you determine whether the maximum of 18 milligrams made a
Ms Wood: No, because we knew that approximately 10 milligrams was being used in
the gasoline in the two cities we tested.
Senator Taylor: Gasoline that you can buy in Canada has from 8 milligrams of
manganese per litre to 18 milligrams. If your samples had only 8 milligrams per
litre, which is less than half the maximum, your findings may have been
Mr. Krewski: In the assessment the department did in order to obtain the most
accurate possible estimate of exposure, we used an average value for manganese
for MMT in gasoline, which would correspond to the average at that time. If you
increased that figure from 10, the value that was used, up to 18, you would
increase human exposures.
You should also keep in mind that there were some conservative assumptions made
in two areas that might be sufficient to offset that. One was the use of
worst-case ambient monitoring data in the Canadian cities where we monitored
manganese in air, and the other was the use of the most sensitive toxicological
end points in setting the reference value. So I do not think that a factor of 18
over 10 would be critical in this assessment.
Senator Taylor: It seems to be fairly clear that the use of MMT reduces NOx, but
at the expense of increasing hydrocarbon emissions. Did you do any study to
determine the effects of increased hydrocarbon emissions because you were using
MMT, which decreases NOx but increases hydrocarbon emissions?
Mr. Krewski: The department of health did not do studies to see what the change
in profile of emissions would be due to alterations in the use of MMT. We have
shown independently in other studies of those traditional pollutants that, if
emissions were increased due to failure of on-board diagnostic equipment caused
by MMT, and there were an increase of other traditional pollutants, there would
likely be an increase in health risk to the general population.
Senator Taylor: An increase in hydrocarbon emissions would not be a good thing,
Mr. Krewski: That is correct.
Senator Bosa: When did the health department become aware that MMT might be a
noxious substance deleterious to health?
Mr. Krewski: We did not conclude that MMT per se, and the manganese that is
emitted as a consequence of MMT, is toxic to health. The concern is over other
pollutants that would be generated as a result of increased tailpipe emissions
due to the failure of the computerized equipment to control combustion in
Senator Bosa: When did the department start monitoring MMT?
Mr. Krewski: The assessment was completed by the department in 1994.
Ms Wood: This is the fourth assessment that the department has undertaken. The
first was in 1978, when MMT was not used very much but it was anticipated that
it would be used.
Senator Bosa: Did you specifically zero in on the effects of MMT in the air?
Ms Wood: Yes.
Senator Bosa: And you constantly monitor not only MMT but other substances?
Ms Wood: No. We did not do monitoring. Environment Canada monitors; we look at
Senator Bosa: So there is no evidence that MMT is a noxious substance?
Ms Wood: No.
Mr. Krewski: That was the clear conclusion of the most recent Health Canada
assessment completed in 1994.
Senator Whelan: The evidence we are hearing is very similar to that which was
presented when we started to use lead. There was no evidence that it would ever
damage anyone, et cetera. Therefore, I am concerned about the conflicts I
perceive between what you are saying and what I read in this document. I have
talked to many research scientists at the universities who are doing work on
this subject. Every one of them was alarmed at the fact that we are even using
this product, because we do not know enough about it.
On page 2 of your document, you say that there is a possibility of occupational
exposure to MMT during the production process and during the blending and
transferring of MMT. This is in reference to people working in plants. You also
state that since MMT is highly toxic, manufacturers recommend stringent
precautions during this procedure.
Ms Wood: That is correct. MMT itself is very toxic.
Senator Whelan: One doctor told me that it is more dangerous to wash your hands
in gasoline, which we farmers commonly used to do, than it is to wash them with
any of the insecticides or pesticides.
Ms Wood: It is more dangerous because gasoline itself is toxic. First, I would
not recommend that people wash their hands in gasoline. If they do, however,
they are at much more risk with tetraethyl lead than with manganese, which is
in a very small amount.
Senator Whelan: Mr. Chairman, there was never any precautionary information
given to us. We did all our own mechanical work on the farm. We never had any
information given to us which stated, for instance, that we should not use
gasoline to wash our hands.
I move now to another chemical which we were told was perfectly safe, that is,
DDT. We found out years later that it was one of the worst things to which
human society was ever exposed.
Therefore, I have some strong reservations about the fact that Health Canada
seems to be saying, "There is a little bit of this, but we do not think it
is enough to hurt you." You say you support the bill while at the same
time you say that perhaps you should not.
Mr. Krewski: Can we distinguish between MMT per se and manganese, which is
produced as a result of the combustion of MMT? Clearly, MMT itself is highly
toxic. Most of the remarks that we made earlier related to manganese emissions
and exposures to the Canadian population. In that case, our assessment clearly
indicates that the manganese risks are not appreciable for the general
Senator Whelan: That is what was said about lead in 1924.
Ms Wood: That was said right up until 1980 or so. There was a big struggle with
Senator Whelan: But they were wrong for having said it up until 1980.
Mr. Krewski: I pointed out some clear differences between lead and manganese.
Manganese is an essential element required by the body in small quantities for
normal body function. That is not the case with lead. The toxicological data on
lead shows that you get neurological effects at even very low exposures,
whereas the data we have on manganese clearly does not suggest that. There are
marked differences in the toxicological profiles between lead and manganese.
Senator Whelan: Doctors I spoke with stressed that manganese is one of the worst
things in terms of its affect on the brain; and apparently, for example,
manganese mines in Chile are a terrible health hazard. Miners are more exposed
to it, of course, but because of Chile's bad laws, or because of there being no
laws at all to protect the workers, a big percentage of them have brain damage.
Mr. Krewski: At high levels of exposure that is true.
Senator Whelan: You are saying if we add a little bit to the environment it will
not hurt us; is that right?
Mr. Krewski: The essential notion here is that for a toxic agent like manganese
it is quite likely that there exists a safe or sufficiently low level of
exposure for which there would be not a strong likelihood of risk. This is
supported by the fact that manganese is present in small quantities in your
You also asked about MMT per se. I want to distinguish clearly between manganese
and MMT, because MMT is highly toxic and that was not the main focus of the
assessment that we were doing.
The Chairman: When your department does an examination of something like
manganese in this context, what role are you filling when you do that?
Mr. Krewski: It is very much "bread and butter" work for Health Canada
to evaluate the toxicity of chemical substances. The bureau which I am
currently responsible for is the Bureau of Chemical Hazards. Most of our work
is directed toward very careful evaluations of the safety of a wide variety of
chemicals. We do that work under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We
look at air pollutants. We participate in the setting of the national ambient
air quality objectives. We work at setting safety standards for chemicals
present in drinking water and for drinking water quality objectives. We work at
other exposures, both occupational and environmental.
In each of the assessments we try to examine all of the available relevant data,
that is, laboratory data on toxicity and epidemiological data on exposed human
populations, in order to come up with an overall best conclusion as to the
risks or safety of each individual substance with which we work.
The Chairman: I understand now that that is what you did on four separate
occasions with respect to manganese as an additive in MMT.
Mr. Krewski: That is correct.
The Chairman: On each occasion, from 1978 to 1994, when you did that you came to
the same conclusions; is that correct?
Mr. Krewski: That is correct.
The Chairman: I take it your work did not include the examination of the effects
of MMT on the diagnostic systems in cars, because that would be Environment
Canada's responsibility; is that correct?
Mr. Krewski: We do not have the expertise to do that kind of assessment.
The Chairman: We should look to Environment Canada, I take it, for that type of
Mr. Krewski: Yes.
The Chairman: I have before me a document which I believe came out in November
of 1992 from the Health Protection Branch. It is entitled, "Issues: MMT -
Gasoline Additive." I take it that documents of this type are issued
frequently by your department?
Mr. Krewski: Documents of that type are issued on an as-needed basis when we
have an issue on which we wish to communicate.
The Chairman: This is your public communication to Canadians on issues as they
come about. This one was entitled, "MMT - Gasoline Additive." In the
document you ask some questions and give some answers. The first question you
ask in this document is:
Is the manganese in MMT likely to cause the same health problems as lead did?
Your answer is:
No. Although lead and manganese are both heavy metals, there are important
differences between them.
Manganese is a necessary nutrient, required by the body every day for good
health. On the other hand, there are no known beneficial effects of lead.
Manganese is also a much more abundant element -- the 12th most common on
Is your answer today the same as it was in 1992?
Mr. Krewski: Yes. I think several of those points were included in my opening
remarks, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: In your "Issues" document, you then go on about MMT and
Canadian health issues and you state:
Based on current evidence, experts at Health and Welfare Canada are confident
that the risk to human health from MMT-derived manganese is extremely small:
there is clearly a wide margin of safety between the current intake of
manganese from MMT and the lowest concentrations of airborne manganese known to
cause any health effects.
The "Issues" sheet states that:
It is only in industrial settings like certain mines and metal refineries that
concentrations of manganese are great enough to cause toxic effects. Industrial
sources, such as iron and steel foundries --
I take it that would be in the Hamilton and Windsor areas --
are in fact responsible for about 90 percent of airborne manganese.
Is that still your position today?
Mr. Krewski: Those facts are still valid, yes.
The Chairman: You then go on to state:
This danger simply does not exist in the case of manganese: there has always
been far more manganese than lead in the soil -- more than could possibly be
deposited through the use of MMT -- and yet children have not experienced any
ill effects from it.
Is that still your position today?
Mr. Krewski: Yes, it is.
The Chairman: Your next question is:
Can manganese be toxic?
Your answer is:
Yes, like many useful substances, manganese can be toxic if absorbed in large
enough amounts. But it is only in industrial settings like certain mines and
metal refineries that concentrations of manganese are great enough to cause
Is that still your evidence today?
Mr. Krewski: Yes.
The Chairman: The next question is:
Is manganese more toxic when inhaled rather than ingested?
Your answer is:
Is that still your answer today?
Ms Wood: I would change the answer to "yes."
The Chairman: Would you explain that, please?
Ms Wood: Manganese, when inhaled, is much more absorbed than manganese when
ingested. Ingested manganese results in about 3-per-cent absorption average,
whereas with inhaled manganese we count up to 60 per cent.
The Chairman: Thank you. The next question was:
Why is MMT not used in the United States?
You have a description, and towards the end you indicate:
The EPA does agree, though, that MMT significantly reduces nitrous oxide
emissions, which are known to cause smog. Interestingly enough, the levels of
manganese in Canadian and American cities are about the same -- 0.03 or 0.04
micrograms per cubic metre -- despite the difference in MMT use between Canada
and the U.S.
Are you still of that view today?
Ms Wood: Yes.
The Chairman: From your department's point of view, even with MMT being used in
Canada and not being used in the United States, the levels of manganese in the
cities of the United States and Canada are relatively the same and are within
areas which are not harmful to Americans or Canadians; is that a fair comment?
Mr. Krewski: I think that is a fair summary.
Senator Taylor: Manganese and MMT are two different things. If you handle a bar
of manganese, you are fine. If you wash your hands in MMT, you are in deep
Is there such a thing as blow-by in the exhaust systems of cars which would put
unconsumed MMT into the air? We realize that MMT is consumed and that the
by-product manganese is going out. That is not a danger. However, is unconsumed
or unburnt MMT a danger when it goes out through the exhaust pipe? After all,
hardly anything is 100 per cent efficient.
Ms Wood: Very little, apparently.
Senator Taylor: Have you studied manganese in the air, or did you study MMT in
Ms Wood: We did not look specifically at MMT in the air. Other people have, and
they do not find it very often. Occasionally, they can find it in a place such
as an enclosed garage where it cannot escape. It has a half-life of about eight
seconds, so that helps to dissipate it in the atmosphere as well.
Senator Taylor: In other words, a number of cars coming downtown on a cold
morning at not full combustion would not be discharging enough MMT into the
atmosphere even for five seconds. That is quite a long time when you have your
nose in it. Would that not be a hazard, or do you not test it?
Ms Wood: We do not test that sort of thing, no.
Senator Taylor: Do you feel fairly confident that you need not worry about it?
Ms Wood: I feel confident, based on other people's negative tests, that there is
very little out there.
Senator Comeau: My understanding is that Health Canada does monitor a certain
number of cities in Canada for air pollutants. As I understand it, the major
concern with MMT is with air pollutants caused by the gumming-up of the
ignition system. Would Sydney be one of the cities you would be monitoring,
given that Sydney is one of the heavy metal areas of Canada?
Mr. Krewski: Let me preface my response by indicating that it is not Health
Canada that does the monitoring in cities across Canada; it is Environment
Canada. We work very closely with Environment Canada because we use their
monitoring data in studies we do of the potential health effects of air
We have looked at health impacts of air pollution in 16 urban areas across
Canada, and we have found associations between primary air pollutants such as
ozone, sulfates, and particulates and increased admissions to hospital for
urgent, life-threatening, cardio-respiratory diseases. This result has been
replicated in several urban areas across the country, as well as
What I can tell you about the monitoring is only based on the information that
we have from Environment Canada. I am aware that there are some monitors in
Sydney. I could not speak authoritatively at this point as to exactly what
pollutants have been monitored and over what period of time, but certainly
there is information available on that from the National Air Pollution
Monitoring Network through Environment Canada.
The Chairman: You mentioned industrial centres related to steel. Could I take it
from that that a city like Hamilton would probably have the highest level of
manganese in Canada?
Mr. Krewski: Yes, you could. Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, where there are
significant manmade sources of manganese in the atmosphere, other than
vehicles, do have elevated levels of manganese. Our data suggest that perhaps
half the population might be above the reference level of 0.1 micrograms per
The Chairman: In Hamilton, are they beyond the accepted level of manganese?
Ms Wood: Yes.
Mr. Krewski: However, that is not due to manganese from vehicle emissions but is
due to manganese derived from industrial activity such as steel mills.
The Chairman: Is it relating basically to the steel industry?
Mr. Krewski: Correct.
The Chairman: What is being done about that? Perhaps we should have legislation
there instead of here.
Mr. Krewski: I believe the industry is doing everything it can to control
emissions, but I do not think there is any regulatory action being taken at
The Chairman: Has Health Canada issued any warnings about Hamilton in that
respect? Have any of these "Issue" documents gone out about Hamilton?
Mr. Krewski: I do not think so.
The Chairman: Perhaps we will ask Environment Canada about that when they
Senator Kenny: We could issue a warning today, a news flash.
I wish to come back to the original point. Health Canada has not done any
studies on whether manganese affects the viability of on-board diagnostic
Mr. Krewski: We have done no such studies.
Senator Kenny: In the event that that equipment did break down, are you of the
view that it might cause greater pollution?
Mr. Krewski: We are told by experts at Environment Canada that malfunction of
such equipment can increase the emission of traditional pollutants from
vehicles. It seems like a plausible hypothesis. If that were in fact the case,
from the health point of view, we can support the position that increases in
emissions of traditional pollutants can pose a health risk.
Senator Kenny: Taking into account all of the information you have available to
you, do you support this legislation?
Mr. Krewski: Yes, we do.
Senator Bosa: This question might reveal a conflict of interest on my part. I
live in Etobicoke. How does Etobicoke rate on your rating system?
Ms Wood: You are fine.
Senator Whelan: This report is interesting. However, it is rather confusing when
an ordinary layman reads your terminology. You say some pretty bad things about
MMT and the possibilities of danger from it, and you end by saying that it
should be noted that, unlike point source industrial emissions, motor vehicle
emissions are widely distributed in the environment and thus may contribute more
substantially to the manganese exposure of the general population than the
emissions inventory data suggest.
Mr. Krewski: Yes.
Senator Whelan: You agree with that? You made that statement; so you are
suggesting we should be more concerned than we are?
Ms Wood: We have to keep an eye on it, certainly.
Senator Whelan: You say, on the toxicity of manganese exposure, that:
Exposure to excess manganese has been observed to affect various organ systems,
including the respiratory, cardiac, reproductive and central nervous system.
The central nervous system appears to be the critical target organ, with
adverse effects observed at lower concentrations than in most other systems
including the reproductive system. While the lungs may also be a critical target
organ for those occupationally exposed to manganese dust, this review will be
confined to the effects on the central nervous system, which are considered to
be potentially more serious than those on the lung and also more likely to be
expressed at a lower exposure level.
So when this system breaks down in a car, dangerous emissions can come from that
exhaust system. That is what concerns many of us, the breakdown of this system.
I will not repeat my comment about a person I know very well who works on these
systems all the time. One doctor told me that people who work on repairing
mufflers should wear masks and special clothes so that they are not exposed to
inhaling this manganese which is so dangerous. All these doctors who have made
a life study of this issue give a stronger feeling than you do about the dangers
of this material.
Mr. Krewski: The report, as you mentioned in one of your observations towards
the end, focuses on exposures to the general population first and foremost. One
of the observations was made that, because of the large potential exposure,
because motor vehicles are basically everywhere in the human environment, all
of us could be exposed to emissions from automobiles. If you are looking at
occupational exposures, there would be a smaller number of people involved in
Occupational exposures can be accommodated through good industrial hygiene
practices. Ms Wood's assessment did not suggest that occupational exposures
were posing risks that are any more serious than for those of the general
Senator Whelan: Have you ever gone into a muffler shop?
Mr. Krewski: I have had my muffler repaired a few times, yes.
Senator Whelan: You notice what happens when they whack the muffler with a
hammer and it falls apart? They do not wear masks.
The Chairman: Senator, we are well behind time. There are others waiting to ask
Senator Whelan: I am getting a little annoyed with you, Mr. Chairman. I have
chaired many meetings bigger than this and lengthier. I only had one other
question. Without my even looking at you or anything, you cut me off again and
say we will move on. You read into the record a whole document which could have
been made available to us all. I only had one other question. I wanted to know
if they ever visited the plant where MMT was made.
The Chairman: Your objection is noted, Senator Whalen.
Senator Cochrane: As my friend Senator Taylor has said, nothing is 100 per cent
pure. Just this past Monday, we heard about a study on hair dyes which they now
say are causing reproductive problems, lung problems, and problems to the
central nervous system. That is my only comment.
The Chairman: Senator Whalen had another question.
Senator Whelan: Have you ever visited a plant where MMT is made?
Mr. Krewski: No.
Ms Wood: Neither have I. With reference to garage workers, we did fund a study
in Montreal to find out what they were exposed to in a garage when they were
repairing cars and mufflers and things like that. Their exposure was twice as
high as the average Montrealer's, but it was still under the reference
concentration. It was about 70 per cent or 80 per cent of the reference
The Chairman: Thank you.
We will move on to Transport Canada.
Ms Nicole Pageot, Director General, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation,
Transport Canada: We are pleased to speak to you today on the subject of motor
vehicle emission control. Specifically, I will describe to you Transport
Canada's past, current and future work in the important area of vehicle
emission control. I will also provide some insight into how motor fuel
properties and composition can affect the emission performance of a motor
vehicle and its compliance with Transport Canada's vehicle emission standards.
Emissions from motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution. Vehicle
emissions and their reaction products have adverse impacts on the environment
and human health through the formation of ground level ozone, acid rain,
climate change and by exposing Canadians to a variety of toxic substances.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act is defined as an act to regulate the manufacture
and importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to reduce the
risk of health, injury and damage to property and the environment. It is this
act that provides federal legislative authority for setting standards to limit
emissions from vehicles. In 1995, significant amendments were made to the
original version of the act to strengthen and improve the government's ability
to control vehicle emissions.
Since 1971, Transport Canada's Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation
Directorate has promulgated progressively more stringent national emission
standards for on-road motor vehicles under the authority of the Motor Vehicle
Safety Act to address the environmental issues associated with vehicle
Current emission standards limit exhaust emissions, evaporative emissions and
crankcase emissions from gasoline-fuelled and diesel-fuelled light-duty
vehicles, light-duty trucks and heavy-duty vehicles. In terms of exhaust
emissions, commonly referred to as tailpipe emissions, maximum limits are set
for hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, diesel particulates and
diesel smoke opacity. These maximum emission limits refer to those emissions
measured in accordance with specific and detailed test procedures and using
test fuels that are prescribed by the applicable regulations. Furthermore,
compliance with these emission standards is determined on the basis of vehicles
that have accumulated a prescribed kilometrage. For example, for passenger cars,
that accumulation is currently 80,000 kilometres of driving.
Vehicle manufacturers and importers are required to comply with Transport
Canada's emission standards as a condition of the importation or the
interprovincial shipment of new motor vehicles in Canada. Generally, emission
control standards promulgated by Transport Canada are performance-based
requirements. This provides companies with maximum flexibility in meeting
standards and encourages technical innovation in terms of developing compliance
strategies. In order to verify that Canadian motor vehicles comply with federal
emission standards, every year Transport Canada buys a representative sample of
vehicles of the new model year fleet for emission testing using prescribed test
methods and test fuels. In addition, Transport Canada audits company
certification records and inspects vehicle emission components on a routine
basis. Any deficiencies uncovered by this enforcement program are investigated
by Transport Canada officials, and, if necessary, corrective actions are
The automotive industry has been successful in complying with stringent exhaust
emission standards by equipping vehicles with increasingly sophisticated
technology aimed primarily at improving the efficiency of combustion and
exhaust gas after treatment. For example, as a result of tighter standards and
correspondingly improved technology, exhaust emission from today's passenger
cars has been reduced by up to 98 per cent from the days prior to emission
I should like to tell you more about the standard setting process and the
consultation that happens with other parties. While it is Transport Canada that
holds the legislative authority to promulgate motor vehicle emission standards,
several federal government departments play an important role in and contribute
to the process of establishing the most appropriate standards for Canada. You
have heard some of them, but generally the following departments are involved
in the process, as follows:
Transport Canada promulgates the standard for new motor vehicles under the Motor
Vehicle Safety Act.
Environment Canada provides environmental policy input and environmental impact
assessment to support motor vehicle emission regulations. Environment Canada
also regulates national fuel quality under the authority of the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act, in part to ensure compatibility of fuels and
Health Canada provides input on the effects of various emission constituents and
the reaction products on human health.
Natural Resources Canada provides input on the effects of new standards on fuel
supply, demand quality, and the fuels producing industry.
Industry Canada provides input on the effects of new standards on Canadian
industry, employment and trade agreements.
Aside from the federal government, a broad cross-section of Canadian society has
definite views on environmental issues, including motor vehicle emissions.
These include provincial governments, particularly through the auspices of the
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which I will refer to as
CCME, as well as industries, environmental groups, public health groups,
consumer groups and labour unions. Through a process of interdepartmental and
public consultation, new emissions standards promulgated by Transport Canada
represent a fair and balanced consensus of all involved federal departments and
include consideration of input from the provinces, interested private sector
groups, organizations and the public.
Transport Canada's motor vehicle emission control program has contributed to
achieving substantial emission reductions from the in-use Canadian fleets of
on-road vehicles and this despite increasing vehicle-kilometres travelled and
fleet size. Generally, forecasts indicate that emissions of regulated
pollutants from the Canadian on-road motor vehicle fleet are expected to decline
from 1995 to 2005. However, forecasts also suggest that, without further action
to reduce emissions from new vehicles, emissions from the in-use vehicle fleet
will increase between 2005 and 2020 as the vehicle population and the number of
kilometres driven are expected to continue to grow.
In November 1994, the CCME, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Environment, established a Task Force on Cleaner Vehicles and Fuels. This task
force was created in recognition of the fact that motor vehicles continue to be
a major source of Canada's air pollution. The task force mandate included
developing options and recommendations to the council of ministers on new
vehicle emissions standards and requirements for new fuel formulations.
Following consultation with a specially formed advisory group comprised of
representatives from the automotive and fuel industries, environmental and
health organizations, the task force prepared its final report. On October 23,
1995, the CCME endorsed the report and recommendations of the task force.
With respect to motor vehicle emissions standards, the CCME recommended that
Transport Canada immediately update its vehicle emissions regulations under the
Motor Vehicle Safety Act to harmonize them with the U.S. federal standards in
place under the U.S. Clean Air Act. The task force also recommended that
Canadian low-emission vehicle standard be in place beginning with the 2001
In 1996, Transport Canada undertook initiatives to implement these
recommendations. With respect to the CCME's short-term recommendations,
Transport Canada has proposed the adoption of more stringent certification and
in-use emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, light-duty trucks,
heavy-duty vehicles and also motorcycles, with the objective of harmonizing
Canadian requirements with those of the U.S. federal program. This regulatory
proposal was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette in June 1996. The
proposed standards would take effect beginning with the 1998 model year. The
amendment would tighten control of exhaust and evaporative emissions by
reducing the maximum allowable emission levels and, in the case of light-duty
vehicles, by extending the period of use to which a company must demonstrate
compliance from the current 80,000 kilometres to 160,000 kilometres. The
proposed amendment would also introduce new requirements to control emissions
that occur during the vehicle refuelling process and to require companies to
equip new motor vehicles with on-board diagnostic systems to monitor the
operation of emission controls, and alert the operator of any malfunctions.
Under these proposed amendment, emission limits would be applied for the first
time to motorcycles and vehicles fuelled with methanol, liquefied petroleum gas
and natural gas. Under the proposal, companies continue to be required to
certify that every new vehicle complies with the applicable emissions standards
as a condition of importation or of interprovincial shipment. In addition,
however, the amendment would make each company responsible for ensuring that its
vehicles, when properly maintained, comply with emissions standards in use
throughout their defined useful lives.
With these changes, the emphasis of Transport Canada's audit test program will
shift from new vehicle certification testing to in-use vehicle testing. From a
compliance point of view, this will raise the importance of ensuring that
commercial fuels are compatible with vehicle emission control technology.
Finally, with respect to the CCME's recommendation for the long-term vehicle
emissions standards, Transport Canada has initiated a public process to develop
low-emission vehicle standards for implementation with the 2001 model year by
means of a notice published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on December 21,
In creating the Task Force on Cleaner Vehicles and Fuels, the CCME has
recognized a need to address vehicles and fuel as an integrated system in the
development of policies and programs to reduce vehicle emissions and improve
air quality. There are two basic ways in which a fuel can affect the emission
performance of a motor vehicle. First, the fuel or its by-products of combustion
can permanently and irreversibly damage vehicle emission-related components
such as spark plugs, oxygen sensors, catalytic converters or similar devices.
If a vehicle is exposed to this type of fuel effect, the vehicle can fail to
comply with national in-use emission standards if it is subsequently tested
using the specified procedures and test fuel.
Secondly, the composition of a fuel can directly affect vehicle emissions. By
varying a fuel's parameters, significant and instantaneous changes in vehicle
emissions can occur without altering the vehicle's emission-control system.
Because emission-control systems are unaffected by this type of fuel change,
there is no subsequent effect on compliance with emissions standards. However,
these types of fuel changes can be considered for mitigating air-quality
problems and are particularly effective for addressing regional air-quality
The CCME task force recognized that certain changes would have to be made to
Canadian fuels to ensure compatibility with the vehicle technology that would
be introduced in Canada to comply with the recommended vehicle emissions
standards. In the case of diesel fuel, the task force recommended that
Environment Canada lead in the development and implementation of a national
standard for low-sulphur diesel fuel to ensure the proper operation of improved
catalysts on 1998 model vehicles. In September, 1996, Environment Canada
published proposed low-sulphur diesel regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part
I, and it is my understanding that DOE is working hard to finalize these
regulations in the near future.
With respect to gasoline, the CCME task force was aware of the concern over the
compatibility of 1998 model year vehicles with fuels containing MMT. However,
since the Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act, now Bill C-29, had already been
tabled in the House of Commons, the task force did not address the issue of
this additive's continued use in Canadian gasoline.
In conclusion, the Department of Transport believes it is essential that modern,
sophisticated vehicle emission-control technology be supported by compatible
commercial fuel formulations. In this way, vehicles can be made cleaner to
continue to meet the environmental protection needs of Canadians. Following
extensive consultation with stakeholders, the government determined that Bill
C-29 was necessary to protect the health of Canadians from the potential
adverse impact of the fuel additive MMT on vehicle emission-control systems
and, ultimately, on vehicle emissions. It is on that basis that Transport
Canada supports Bill C-29.
That concludes our formal presentation. We would be happy to answer your
Senator Kenny: Regarding the last part of your testimony relating to the
proposals by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, do I
understand correctly that you are saying that the provincial ministers,
together with the federal minister, concluded and recommended to the Department
of Transport: first, that OBD equipment be placed on all vehicles; second, that
the standards be increased; and third, that, if there was not already action
under way to deal with MMT, recommendations would have to come forward in that
Ms Pageot: The Council of Ministers of the Environment struck the task force
which I talked about and which had a lot of representatives. Yes, the
recommendation that was adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Environment
was for Transport Canada to update its emission standards to harmonize them
with the emission standards being adopted in the United States. Those standards
included the requirement for on-board diagnostic systems.
As for the second question, the task force also recommended that Transport
Canada produce some low-vehicle emission standards on a longer term for the
2001 model year vehicles. At the time the task force was created and at the
time the recommendations were made, MMT was not addressed because, as I
mentioned, a bill on MMT had already been tabled in the House.
Senator Kenny: The Motor Vehicle Safety Act gives you power to regulate vehicles
that are transported from province to province? It gives you interprovincial
powers, in effect?
Ms Pageot: Yes. The act gave us the authority to regulate the manufacture and
importation of vehicles.
Senator Kenny: In that respect, it is similar to the act that we have before us,
in terms of the importation and transportation from province to province of
Mr. Lui Hrobelsky, Chief, Energy and Emissions Engineering, Transport Canada:
Yes, it is similar in that respect.
Senator Kenny: In terms of the question of performance-based standards that you
use for measuring vehicles, how long would you estimate that it would take to
set up a test program to determine whether MMT fouled OBD-II equipment and
caused, or did not cause, increased emissions? How long would it take from the
point where you were asked to establish such a study until you would be
satisfied that you could report to the Canadian public what the results of such
a study would be?
Mr. Hrobelsky: Our feeling is that it would take probably in excess of a year to
undertake a credible program that would provide the kind of answers that we are
seeking, to look at the issues that are still unresolved related to MMT. To get
the kind of information we are after requires vehicles to accumulate high
mileage, up to 160,000 kilometres. The new standards that we are proposing
require compliance at that kind of mileage. Even if a vehicle is driven 20
hours a day at 80 kilometres per hour, it takes 100 days or a third of a year
just to put the mileage on. That does not take into account designing a
statistically valid program, interrupting the mileage accumulation to do
emission testing at specified points, either at 10,000 or 15,000 kilometres,
maintaining those vehicles with respect to oil changes and other lubricants,
getting the results, analyzing the results, and producing a report. We felt
that that would be quite a complex undertaking, quite a sizeable undertaking,
and it would take probably in excess of a year to complete a credible program.
Senator Kenny: I have a question on a small technical point in relation to that.
As people have been talking about testing to date, they have talked about the
number of kilometres needed. Is it really just a question of running 180,000
kilometres to do the testing, or do you have to turn the engine on, turn it
off, and replicate real life use the way drivers such as you and I might use a
car, where we do not, in fact, continuously run the car? We stop it, we start
it, we sometimes drive it in cold weather and sometimes in hot weather. Can you
get adequate results just by running it for the 180,000 kilometres straight off
the bat or is it more complicated than that?
Mr. Hrobelsky: It is more complicated than that. The intent of the new standards
is that we do not produce vehicles that are clean in the laboratory but that we
produce vehicles that will operate cleanly and protect the environment when
they are in use by average Canadians. The proposed standards are really
designed with the intent that vehicles on the road in average use will meet the
standards at 160,000 kilometres for a passenger car. For a heavy-duty truck like
a transport, that mileage is 494,000 kilometres.
Consistent with that, the mileage and the use the vehicle gets in any test
program should be as representative as possible of what average Canadians will
subject that vehicle to, which is likely not constant speed and driving for 24
hours a day. However, it will include a variety of driving and a number of hot
starts and cold starts as we use our vehicles in normal, everyday life. We are
trying to replicate that as closely as possible in a valid and well-designed
Senator Kenny: If you are to have such a test program, is that something you
would do yourself, or would you seek assistance from auto manufacturers,
refiners and additive producers to operate this type of program?
Mr. Hrobelsky: We would certainly not undertake it ourselves, because we do not
have the funding or the budget to support such an effort. Typically, we rely on
regulated industries to give us input on issues that relate to the work we are
undertaking. If that requires a cooperative effort in test programs or the
design of test programs or the evaluation of results, we are always interested
and available to partake in that kind of work where there is a credible job to
be done. Normally, we would rely on the industries to produce that type of
Senator Kenny: The test you described for the committee is what you might call
the perfect test if you were running it yourself, but it does not take into
account the time involved to get the auto industry to agree with the oil
people's experts and the oil people's experts to agree with the car dealers'
experts and the car dealers' experts to deal with Ethyl Corporation's experts
and all of the politics associated with that.
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is correct. That, as is the same in regulating most
industries, can be a complex undertaking.
Senator Kenny: It would not be fair to ask you to estimate how long that would
take, so I will not ask you to do that.
When Transport Canada does a test of the new vehicles it buys every year, what
kind of fuel does it use, and does that fuel contain MMT?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The fuel we use does not contain MMT. The fuel is a prescribed
test fuel, which is identical to what is used by the Environmental Protection
Agency in the United States.
Senator Kenny: Why do you not use a fuel with MMT?
Mr. Hrobelsky: There are number of reasons. That decision was made back in the
late 1980s, when we changed emission standards the last time. Since the
mid-1980s, Transport Canada has followed a policy of harmony with the U.S. on
motor vehicle emission standards. We have done that for a number of reasons.
First, we recognized and respected the integrated, continental nature of the
automobile industry. They were selling identical products in Canada and the U.S.
This saved money for manufacturers having to do so, which ultimately saved
money for consumers.
As well, the program of harmony ensured that Canadians had the advantage of the
best and the strictest automobile emission control technology of any country in
the world. They had it at a bargain-basement price by doubling up on what was
happening in the U.S.
A part of that concept of harmony required that we not only harmonize on the
vehicles and the vehicle standards, but also on how we demonstrate compliance
to standards through equivalent test methods and fuels. If we did not harmonize
on test procedures as well, ultimately this would result in different standards
in the two countries. It would require separate certification procedures on the
part of manufacturers, and that would erode much of the economy in the harmony
In choosing harmony on test fuels as well, we also evaluated the effects of
using MMT and not using MMT. We felt at the time that that was not a big factor
given the emission levels of the day.
Senator Kenny: Given the importance of harmony with the United States and given
the fact now that it is legal for MMT to be sold in some states in the United
States, is it your view or the view of your department that there is sufficient
MMT being sold in the United States for you to change your practices and now
test vehicles with MMT in Canada?
Mr. Hrobelsky: I guess you have had exposure to this situation over the last few
days, the same as we have had, and one of the difficulties is getting an
accurate reading on what is actually happening in the U.S. We know that a large
number of major oil refiners have indicated that they are not intending to use
MMT. We know that through legal requirements in the U.S. in the State of
California and in many other states which require the use of reformulated
gasoline, about a third of the U.S. market cannot legally use fuels with MMT.
The indication is that its use is either zero or very low in the rest of the
Based on the information we have, which is not ideal or complete, our assessment
is that the use of MMT in the U.S. is still low and does not warrant a change
in our policy on the use of MMT in test fuels.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: In the past, we talked about lead, in the future, it
will be sulphur. On the issue of MMT, are the tests or the procedure usually
used to reach a decision to ban the use of a product or to limit it or to
regulate its use always the same? Do you have a protocol for fuel components
that is always the same? I have been told that there was a procedure that was
followed for lead. We were told that more or less the same procedure was used
for sulphur, and that another procedure was used for MMT. Is this true? If yes,
Mr. Hrobelsky: The assessment of the impact of fuel components on vehicle
emissions and on vehicle emission systems is a function of the specific fuel
component we are looking at. The procedures on assessing these things can be
similar in some respects in that vehicles ultimately must meet Transport Canada
standards. However, there may have to be adjustments to the procedures or to
the types of investigations that are undertaken depending on the fuel
constituent we are interested in.
I would point out, however, that the authority to regulate fuels and fuel
quality rests with Environment Canada and not with Transport Canada. The
consideration of fuels and the assessment of fuel effects would normally be
undertaken by Environment Canada, with help from other departments, obviously.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Yes. Health Canada, Transport Canada and Environment
Canada are all concerned, but who takes the lead to undertake the various tests
and procedures? How do you coordinate between the three departments?
Mr. Hrobelsky: There are a number of departments involved beyond those three.
Normally, the department with the legislative authority would take the lead. In
the case of fuel regulation, that would be Environment Canada. I will not speak
too much for Environment Canada, because they have appeared before you and I
understand they will return. They set up formal, multi-stakeholder consultation
processes that involve government departments with an interest in the issues
they are dealing with, including the non-government stakeholders and industries
that have an interest in the fuel issue. They follow a formal, well-established
procedure which sometimes involves the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Environment, depending on the issue.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: If I understand correctly, the lead responsibility for
the fuel component in a car lies with Environment Canada and the equipment
performance of cars or any kind of vehicle lies with your department. You are
the ones conducting the tests, setting the standards and establishing the
requirements for the performance of the various components on cars.
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is correct. We regulate the vehicle emission requirements
for new motor vehicles in Canada under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Environment Canada regulates fuels and fuel quality under the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: You said that you did not know about the situation of
fuel in the United States. However, when it comes to the vehicles themselves
and the standards, do we have international standards for the performance of
cars? For instance, if we are talking about certain components that would be
damaged through the use of some additive in fuels, would American, Canadian and
European cars go through your department to be tested year after year? Madam
Pageot said that you buy cars and you test them. However, do you test all
brands of cars?
Ms Pageot: Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, we have Canadian safety and
emission standards, but, because of the North American market, we are very much
in harmony with the American standards that take effect in the United States.
We regulate the manufacturer and the importation of new vehicles. When we
proceed with testing either on the safety side or on the emission side, we buy
a representative number of vehicles that are offered on the market and we test
them. We do not test every model and every type of vehicle. We do a sampling.
We do that for the safety standards as well as the emission standards. At the
beginning of the year, we choose a sampling which could be representative of
the current fleet and we test them. They are cars that are manufactured, sold
and imported in Canada, so it includes all makes and models.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I am not the most knowledgeable in terms of the
European situation. I am under the impression that most of them are still using
lead in their fuel.
Mr. Hrobelsky: You might find lead used in some areas of Eastern Europe, but
typically not in the ECE.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: What additive do they put in their fuel?
Mr. Hrobelsky: They do not use lead or MMT, so it would depend on the particular
Senator Hervieux-Payette: They do not have any European Union standard?
Mr. Hrobelsky: I am not aware of one. There may well be one, but I cannot speak
Senator Hervieux-Payette: We are talking about the effect of certain fuels
containing additives on car equipment. Canadians are buying cars from European
countries and Japan.
Ms Pageot: I should like to clarify that. Every car that is made for the
Canadian market must meet Canadian standards, not European standards. Any
vehicle that is to be sold or imported into Canada must meet Canadian safety
and emission standards. They meet our standards when they are sold in Canada.
Mr. Hrobelsky: In many cases, it is not a relevant comparison to compare Canada
to some of the European countries, because Canada, along with the U.S., has
been a leader in emission control technology for vehicles. Over time,
generally, North American standards have been much more demanding than what has
been available in Europe. The fact that a vehicle may operate under certain
conditions in Europe is not necessarily a guarantee that it will do so here.
Ms Pageot: We considered that our proposed emission standards would be the most
stringent national emission standards, as well as the American standards, in
the world right now.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: My last question will be for you, Ms Pageot. Despite
your comments, I have not seen a major concern that using gas with MMT causes
significant damage to internal equipment. Your colleague talked about the
mileage you need to do your tests; Obviously, if a vehicle is driven hard over
a very short period of time, there will be emissions and perhaps damage. But the
way our North American cars are built, is there more of a danger and more
problems for cars built five or ten years ago as opposed to cars built in 1996?
Are there differences in terms of equipment? Has there been any improvement,
because MMT has been there for a long time? Have there been any changes? Has
the situation improved over the past five or ten years, or do we have the same
equipment that, we have been told, is undergoing damage that in the end results
in a bad reading? Was this damage noticed at the start and not corrected, or
did this damage continue, not being serious enough for you to intervene as
representatives of the Department of Transport, to say that the equipment is
not working properly and to demand that it be changed so that it performs
Ms Pageot: There is a difference in the technology that is available in some
recent models and what would be required with the new emission control
One major area of concern is the effect of MMT use on the on-board diagnostic
systems. This technology is not available in vehicles that date back 10 years
ago. These areas of concerns have evolved with the technology being advanced
and improved. The information provided to the department by the vehicle
manufacturers is that MMT use in gasoline has an effect on the functioning of
the on-board diagnostic systems that are required by our regulations.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: That could not be modified or corrected? The equipment
we are talking about which has experienced side effects from MMT has not, will
not or cannot be modified?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The difficulty we are facing is that it probably cannot be done
in time. Our new, tighter standards are proposed for the 1998 model year. As
some of the auto industry witnesses indicated, for them that starts as early as
next week with the introduction of some early 1998 models. Given the short lead
time for industries to comply with new requirements, the redesign of systems
with regard to fuel effects is not a feasible option at this time. These are
We could tolerate MMT, or MMT effects, 10 years ago. Today, the standards are
much more stringent and we require compliance to them for twice the mileage and
time on "real world" fuels and under "real world"
conditions, as opposed to in the laboratory under controlled conditions. These
factors change the way we look at vehicles and fuels now from the way we did in
the past. The challenges today are much greater than they ever were in the
past. Certain things that we could tolerate 10 years ago are not possible to
take into account today.
Senator Taylor: In the first paragraph of the fifth page of your document you
For example, as a result of tighter standards and correspondingly improved
technology, exhaust emissions from today's passenger cars have been reduced by
up to 98 per cent from the days prior to emission controls.
How much of this is due to the technology in the automobile and how much is due
to the improvement in fuel?
Mr. Hrobelsky: I would say it is almost all from vehicle improvements.
Senator Taylor: I think you are right, but I wanted to hear it from you. In
other words, in the last 10 years, the automobile industry has borne nearly the
entire brunt of improving emission standards while fuel has been rocking along
at the same old rate.
Until now, it has been the automobile manufacturers or the dealers who are fined
if they put out a vehicle without the proper emission standards. I gather that
the manufacturers cannot sell a vehicle in this country if it does not meet
Are there any laws dealing with fuel? Aside from tretraethyl lead, can any fuel
be sold if someone will buy it?
Ms Pageot: Our act regulates the manufacture and importation of vehicles.
Mr. Hrobelsky: That question should be answered by Environment Canada.
As you pointed out, the lead content of gasoline is currently regulated. To a
large degree, fuel quality in Canada today meets the requirements of the
Canadian General Standards Board and those fuel specifications are set by a
consensus process which involves the auto industry, the oil industry and
consumers. The CGSB standards are not necessarily founded in law across the
country. There are about five provinces that adopt the CGSB standards as law,
while the others do not.
Given the way the oil industry works, with exchange agreements and whatnot, it
is not abnormal to see the CGSB specifications met across the country anyway.
Senator Taylor: In other words, it is a case of "buyer beware" when it
comes to fuel, but the buyer is protected by regulation when it comes to the
Mr. Hrobelsky: The buyer is protected in half the provinces -- those that adopt
the Canadian General Standards Boards requirements in their provincial laws.
Senator Taylor: If this bill does not pass, what will you do for the 1998 model
Ms Pageot: We have a tight time frame. We will have to decide on our course of
action. We may possibly postpone the promulgation of our standards. We believe
that the fuel issue must be resolved before we can finalize our emission
Senator Taylor: There is no doubt in your mind that you cannot meet your
emission standards without this bill being passed?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The department proposed tighter standards in June of 1996. Those
have not gone to final regulation because the position of the department has
been that the issue of MMT must be resolved before those standards can pass.
The legal situation we are in if this bill does not pass and we cannot go to new
standards is that Canada reverts to emissions standards established in 1988. We
can potentially fall 10 years back in emission control. What that would mean in
practice is difficult to say. It will depend a lot on what vehicle
manufacturers choose to do. They have told you that they are concerned enough
with the effects of fuels on their vehicles that they are considering -- and
some are doing so now -- disabling emission controls for Canada. The fact is
that legally they will be able to do that as long as they do not exceed our
1988 standards, which is not a great challenge for them now.
We are at a critical point in this business of vehicle emission controls.
Industry's reactions will depend on what kind of signals the government sends
Currently, a large proportion of new vehicles are meeting tighter standards
voluntarily. The emission equipment is in place and functioning, but that is
because manufacturers believe that the standards we proposed for 1998 will come
about; it is because they believe that the fuels they believe are necessary
will be available. However, if those situations change, we can expect changes in
the strategies they apply to the vehicles sold here. There is a strong risk
that vehicles will be modified back to 1988 standards, if manufacturers feel
that is necessary.
Senator Landry: Perhaps I could give an example in terms of something that
happened in one of our plants the other day. There was a radio problem. Some
people had the radio too loud and others did not want it that loud. The second
time I went, I said, "There is only one cure. We will ban the radio
I think we all agree that MMT is a hazard to health and we are trying to deal
with a special emission problem. We are trying to do something that is almost
impossible. Regardless of how strict the regulations are, how many vehicles run
on the highway with broken exhaust systems? The strength of a chain is only as
strong as the weakest link. For instance, I know many fishermen who are fishing
with straight exhaust systems. When the boats sail, naturally, the exhaust hits
the fishermen. There are two to five fishermen working in the back of the boat
inhaling all that exhaust all day. If there was no MMT in the gas, they would
not inhale it. As long as it is there, there is always the possibility of a
broken exhaust pipe or one that is not working properly. In my view, the safest
way to proceed is by not using MMT.
Ms Pageot: Senator Landry, you are right that, if maintenance is not done and
enforcement is not carried out, then you might see situations such as those
which you have just described. However, our proposed emission regulations
include an enforcement program, certification and inspection built into the
Senator Adams: You have talked about testing different types of vehicles, such
as GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo and other types of vehicles. Do
all those vehicles have the same kind of pollution control equipment?
Mr. Hrobelsky: In a generic sense, they all use similar equipment. They may use
it in different ways and with different strategies from company to company, but
also from model to model within a company. Generally, the equipment is all
common. There is an engine. There are sensors for oxygen. There is a catalytic
converter. There is exhaust gas recirculation. The fundamental components are
really common to all of them, yes.
Senator Adams: Do the different models work the same way with this system?
Mr. Hrobelsky: Yes. We set one standard that every manufacturer has to meet with
every model he builds. They are all measured up to a common yardstick. To a
large extent, the technology employed is similar from manufacturer to
Ms Pageot: You might be interested to know that, in Canada, it is a
self-certification program. Manufacturers must self-certify that they meet all
Canadian motor vehicle safety standards, which include emission standards.
Senator Adams: You have CSC approval and you do the testing. Do you still
approve it, even if it is standard, before you test it? What will happen for
new models after 1998? In other words, will that equipment be installed on
those model years?
Ms Pageot: The proposed standard requires vehicles to be equipped with the
on-board diagnostics system for the 1998 model year.
Senator Adams: But do you know how it will work? There is a standard, but you
have not tested that equipment.
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is correct. Sometimes the standards are technology forcing.
In some cases, if there is not enough lead time built in, the technology does
not even exist to meet the standards. It has to be an interpretive process to
monitor the development and to adjust to it as necessary. We are not really in
that situation with the 1998 standards. That model year is upon us. The
technology that will be used is known. Those vehicles will be out there next
For example, with regard to the standards we are embarking on for 2001, in some
cases the technology for those standards does not exist. For 2001, we are
looking at vehicles that will be significantly cleaner than those we are
proposing for 1998, right down to vehicles that have zero emissions; so, in
that regulatory development process, the technology does not yet exist. As we go
along, we have to probe what technology is available, decide when it is
feasible to apply that technology and determine, for example, what the fuel
implications might be so that we can try to bring all those things together as
they are required.
Senator Adams: You mentioned that you have set up a task force. Is that a
private task force or is it something within Transport Canada?
Ms Pageot: The task force we referred to was set up in 1994. It was composed of
representatives from the federal government, and from industry, as well as from
health care associations. That task force was mandated by the Council of Deputy
Ministers of the Environment.
Senator Adams: Did they conduct an air study or did they deal with
manufacturers? What was in the report?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The mandate of the task force was to make recommendations to the
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment on new national standards for
automobiles and new national standards for vehicles. It also made
recommendations on regional initiatives that could be undertaken to address
local air quality problems. It dealt with all those issues.
The Chairman: These are all important questions, colleagues, but we are an hour
behind in our scheduling. I have not intervened because the questions have been
very important, but I want us to be aware of the time factor as we move along.
Obviously, this is an area of great interest to senators and is one which
should be explored fully.
Senator Hays: My question arises out of the CCME task force. I assume it has
representatives from all the provinces.
Mr. Hrobelsky: Yes.
Senator Hays: It did not deal with this manganese-MMT issue because of Bill C-29
or its predecessor. I have been rereading the letters from the governments of a
number of provinces, Alberta in particular, and I will quote it. The premier
has written in effect to the government, saying:
...it is not apparent that removing MMT from gasoline will have any net
environmental benefits. Banning MMT is likely to increase, not decrease,
Is that consistent with what was said by the task force representative from
Alberta, if there was one, or from Saskatchewan or the other provinces? Is the
government not necessarily in synch with the bureaucracy in this case? Could
you elaborate on that?
In terms of the issue, we were also told by the CPPI that there would be an
8-per-cent increase in NOx if MMT were banned. Perhaps you could address that
Mr. Hrobelsky: As far as the CCME is concerned and the role of MMT in that whole
exercise, it is a question of process. The task force did not undertake
detailed investigations of MMT because the bill was drafted and was before the
House of Commons. It was not an appropriate activity for that task force to
undertake. As a matter of process, that was not done.
Senator Hays: Do you think the Government of Alberta assumed it would be
defeated or passed, when they did not mention it in the task force discussion?
Mr. Hrobelsky: I cannot answer for them. The task force recognized that MMT was
an issue that needed resolution, so they did not ignore it. However, I assume
they were comfortable. The resolution was under way through a parallel process,
and that is why they stayed clear of that.
As far as the environmental impacts of MMT and MMT removal are concerned, again,
there is uncertainty over what those specific impacts will be. It is generally
accepted that there is a statistically significant reduction in NOx that comes
about from the use of MMT. There are also indications that there is no impact
on hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. They factor that, however, with the data
on which those determinations are based, which are MMT levels not representative
of Canadian use. The net effects on the environment are uncertain. On the other
hand, we have some indications by other concerns that emission controls will
not function and will increase regulated pollutants. The balance between the
two is a judgment call. The data is not helpful at arriving at a definitive
answer from either side.
Senator Whelan: On page 5 of your brief, under the heading "The
Standard-Setting Process: Consulting with Other Parties," you indicate:
While it is Transport Canada that holds the legislative authority to promulgate
motor vehicle emission standards...
Do you have the authority for all of Canada?
Ms Pageot: Yes, we do.
Senator Whelan: On the next page, you mention that a broad cross-section of
Canadian society has definite views on emissions, and you indicate that this
includes provincial governments. Who from the provincial governments? Are they
representatives of the environmental part of Transport in the provincial
Ms Pageot: Transport Canada has the legislative authority under the Motor
Vehicle Safety Act to regulate emissions. In the process of regulating
emissions, we do consult with different federal departments. We also consult
with industries, provinces, and other organizations.
It refers to a cross-section of Canadians. When there is development of a
regulation, even though we do have the legislative authority, there is always a
Senator Whelan: You are within the Constitution with what you are doing. I take
it for granted that these groups you mention are in accordance with the
standards being set.
Ms Pageot: In this document and in my introductory remarks, I tried to clarify
for this committee the different jurisdictions and the different legislative
authorities that exist regarding regulation of emissions as opposed to the
regulation of fuel, for example.
Senator Whelan: On page 10, I read:
From a compliance point of view, this will raise the importance of ensuring that
commercial fuels are compatible with vehicle emission control technology.
That means that the provinces, under the Constitution, have agreed that you
should have this equipment. Perhaps I take too much for granted, but it also
means that they agree that the fuel should be the kind that will make this
equipment work properly.
Ms Pageot: We are talking here about the compliance to Transport Canada
Senator Whelan: I know you are.
Mr. Hrobelsky: Your premise is correct. In making recommendations to the CCME,
it was recognized by the provincial and federal environment ministers that
fuels and vehicles go hand in hand, and that, if they wanted the tight emission
standards that they had directed Transport Canada to adopt, there was an
obligation to do things with fuels to ensure that the two worked in harmony.
That was an accepted principle in the process. That was the founding principle
of the task force on cleaner vehicles and fuels. It was recognized that we
needed to deal with vehicles and fuels as an integrated system and not
separately, as was the case in the past.
Senator Comeau: The regulations requiring vehicle manufacturers to produce new
combustion and emission control equipment have, in effect, resulted in the fact
that adding MMT to gasoline will make the vehicles not work properly. That is
the crux of the problem. The MMT additive, if it is there, will cause on-board
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is the allegation.
Senator Comeau: What was the goal of the original regulations at the beginning,
the goal which resulted in vehicle manufacturers having to change their
on-board computer systems? Obviously, it was a regulation by Transport Canada,
but what was the goal of the regulation?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The goal was environmental protection and protection of the
health of Canadians.
Senator Comeau: What specifically did it do?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The regulation?
Senator Comeau: Yes.
Mr. Hrobelsky: It ensured that the gains made in reducing vehicle emissions
continued into the next century.
Road transportation is the largest contributor to air pollution in Canada. We
have made dramatic reductions in emissions from vehicles -- as high as 98 per
cent on passenger cars, for example. Those initiatives have meant that the
transportation sector in Canada made larger reductions in contributions to air
pollution than any other industrial sector in this country.
However, regardless of that, we realized that we were still a big part of the
problem. The data indicated that, unless we took new initiatives, pollution
from transportation vehicles early in the next century would increase,
principally because the fleet was increasing in size with population growth,
but also because those vehicles were being driven more.
Senator Comeau: At one point in time, the vehicle manufacturers said: "Yes,
in order to achieve the standards which you are setting for us, we must include
this new computer system in our vehicles, and that will then require that we no
longer use MMT because it would gum up our machinery."
Mr. Hrobelsky: The requirement to use the equipment was ours. It was not the
Senator Comeau: Correct; they had to respond to regulations set by the
Mr. Hrobelsky: Their position was that, in order to have the on-board diagnostic
equipment and in order to meet the emission standards for vehicles on the road,
they required the removal of MMT. That was their position.
Senator Comeau: The new equipment in the 1998 vehicles will reduce drastically
the great numbers of pollutants still being thrown into the air.
Mr. Hrobelsky: We will make a great reduction in the 2 per cent of the pollution
we are still chasing, yes.
Senator Comeau: What happens with the removal of the MMT for 1998 vehicles? For
all other vehicles pre-1998, those which are driven by the greatest number of
us, will the removal of MMT have an adverse effect?
Mr. Hrobelsky: The removal will not affect the operation or the durability of
those vehicles, no.
Senator Comeau: Will it affect the emission of pollutants that would not
otherwise be there with MMT?
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is the contention of the oil industry.
Senator Comeau: There might be a danger in that the vast majority of vehicles on
the road today -- I would not even venture a percentage guess -- would be using
gasoline that would potentially spurt out all kinds of pollution into the air.
Mr. Hrobelsky: That is a judgment call.
Senator Comeau: We are being asked to pass a law which we then call a judgment
shot? I am just a simple country boy.
Mr. Hrobelsky: So am I. If this were as clear as we would all like, I do not
think any of us would be sitting here. The oil industry tells us that, if you
remove MMT, NOx will increase. The auto industry says, if you leave it in
there, you are fouling spark plugs and catalytic converters and the emissions
are going up. Who do you want to believe? That is the question.
Senator Comeau: Mr. Chairman, perhaps we need a lie detector test. We are being
asked to judge on extremely complex questions.
Mr. Hrobelsky: To be honest, this is not atypical of motor vehicle emission
issues. They are very complex issues that are multi-disciplinary in nature.
They involve not only vehicles and oils and fuels and engineering; they involve
atmospheric chemistry. They involve the health sciences.
Senator Comeau: I realize that. We are being asked to judge that.
Mr. Hrobelsky: We are never as smart as we would like to be, to know the
definitive answers in all these areas that would permit us to say, absolutely,
without a doubt, that this is the right thing to do. Applying judgment in motor
vehicle regulations is typical of doing business. It is the way it has been
done for 25 years.
There is proof that that judgment has produced good results. In Canada today,
vehicle emissions are 98 per cent lower than they have been. Vehicle pollution
reductions are greater than reductions from any other sector. Those reductions
have contributed to improved air quality and improved health of Canadians. This
is the next step of applying that judgment. It is not different from what we
have done in the past.
Senator Comeau: We are doing MMT this year. What will it be next year? Will we
bring in new legislation next year to remove other potentially harmful elements
from gasoline? Should we not be doing it now? Rather than moving gradually,
should we be not bring one omnibus bill that removes everything that causes air
Mr. Hrobelsky: We are concerned about many fuel issues. There is MTT. There is
sulphur in gasoline and diesel. There is benzine and toluene.
Senator Comeau: Why are we not dealing with all of them now?
Mr. Hrobelsky: We are dealing with all of those. It is really a case of how to
proceed with those. The route that is chosen is judged to be most appropriate
for what is at hand.
The Chairman: Thank you for your testimony.
Our next witnesses are from Pollution Probe and the Learning Disabilities
Association of Canada, and I would ask them to proceed immediately.
Ms Jill McDowell, Member, Pollution Probe: I am pleased to submit the following
position statement by Pollution Probe concerning Bill C-29, an act to regulate
interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain
Ken Ogilvie, Pollution Probe's executive-director, could not be here today so I
am here on his behalf to present his statement.
Pollution Probe supports Bill C-29 and calls upon the Senate to ensure the
speedy passage of this bill. During the 25 years since the 1972 Stockholm
Conference on Humans and the Environment, a large amount of knowledge and
experience has been gained on the causes of and solutions to environmental and
related health problems.
Significant progress has been made on the control of conventional pollutants,
such as atmospheric emissions of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen
oxides. Progress has also been made on the control of specific substances,
including many trace organic compounds in heavy metals. However, progress on
controlling these substances is more difficult to assess given the scientific
complexity and uncertainties associated with their health and environmental
To cope with these uncertainties, international environmental principles and
practices have been developed to safeguard people and the environment from
unintended harmful effects. In particular, the "precautionary principle"
was endorsed by many nations at the 1992 Rio Summit, which was attended by
heads of state of most of the countries of the world. As a result, the practice
of pollution prevention has become the major direction for public and private
sector policies and programs.
Canada was a leader in the development of these international environmental
principles and practices, which have been given substance through their
inclusion in legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,
and in government policy statements and ministerial speeches. The federal
Minister of the Environment, on behalf of the Government of Canada, has an
obligation to the public and to the international community to give effect to
the precautionary principle.
Pollution Probe has devoted the majority of its efforts during the past five
years to the issue of urban smog and its effects on human health. The
transportation sector, and the automobile in particular, has been the focus of
much of Pollution Probe's work. The proceedings of our April 1996 Conference on
Transportation, Air Quality and Human Health give a comprehensive review of
smog-related health effects and the role of the transportation sector. Since
1993, Pollution Probe has run an annual Clean Air Campaign that is oriented
towards getting people to take less environmentally stressful travel choices
and to maintain and operate their vehicles to ensure the lowest possible
pollutant emissions when vehicles are used. Pollution Probe, along with the
auto sector, the petroleum producers and other key stakeholders, promotes the
view that vehicle technologies, fuels and responsible operation must all work
together to achieve cost-effective emission reductions. It is the role of the
auto sector to provide cleaner technologies, the petroleum and fuel producing
sector to provide cleaner fuels and individuals to maintain and operate their
vehicles at optimum condition.The result will be the reduction of thousands of
tonnes of harmful air pollutants, with corresponding human health benefits and
economic savings due to lower health care and other costs.
MMT has become an issue for Pollution Probe due to evidence gathered by the auto
sector that indicates that MMT interferes with vehicle emission controls, and
to concerns raised by credible health groups that increases in inhaled
manganese due to the combustion of MMT may harm children and the elderly. The
potential damage to vehicle emission control systems by MMT cannot be
dismissed, given the serious health damage that is caused by smog. The concerns
raised by various health researchers, health groups and boards of health are
not, in Pollution Probe's opinion, adequately addressed in the Health Canada
risk assessment. There is no easy way to resolve the differing evidence on
emission control interference or to answer the health concerns related to
manganese. In the meantime, the public continues to be exposed to manganese from
MMT, despite the availability of substitutes that would allow MMT to be removed
from gasoline at a cost that is not unreasonable when compared to the potential
There is no question that a significant fraction of manganese combusted in
MMT-containing gasoline is emitted from the tailpipes of cars; it is
approximately 15 to 30 per cent, according to a report prepared by Ethyl
Corporation entitled, "MMT and Public Health: Separating Fact from
The 1995 risk assessment by Health Canada notes that ambient levels of
respirable manganese in Canadian cities have remained unchanged or have
decreased between 1986 and 1992. However, the 1992 Status Report on Ontario's
Air, Water and Waste recently released by the Ontario Ministry of the
Environment and Energy notes on page 19 that:
As ambient concentrations of lead have declined, however, those of another
metal, manganese, have increased. Manganese was used as a substitute for lead
in unleaded gasoline. Annual average concentrations of manganese increased
steadily throughout the 1980s and were almost twice as high at the end of the
decade as they were at the beginning. Although manganese has industrial uses,
its more recent use as a substitute for lead in gasoline likely accounts for
the rise in manganese concentrations.
The apparently different conclusion in the Ontario ministry report relative to
the Health Canada report adds to Pollution Probe's concern about the adequacy
of the Health Canada risk assessment.
Pollution Probe's view is that the evidence for MMT's health effects is not
conclusive in terms of its acceptable risk to Canadians. It also appears likely
that MMT interferes with auto emission control systems. Therefore, the public
is not assured that their health is adequately protected from smog or from
manganese. MMT has been used extensively in Canada for almost 20 years and large
quantities of respirable manganese are being continuously emitted into densely
populated urban centres across Canada.
Pollution Probe believes the debate about MMT in gasoline has gone on long
enough and will not be resolved by additional studies and debate. If MMT is
allowed to continue to be used in gasoline, and human health effects are later
found to be linked to MMT, who will be held accountable for damage? The public
should no longer be the pawn in this debate. Hence, a political judgment call by
the federal Parliament was needed and was appropriately taken.
The Senate should support Bill C-29. By doing so, it will show that the
interests of the public and the environment have been placed at the highest
level. The potential for a human health tragedy similar to the one that
occurred with lead in gasoline will be avoided and a signal will be sent to the
international community that Canada is implementing the environmental principles
that it has worked hard to develop for the protection of people and the
environment everywhere on the planet.
Pollution Probe therefore urges the Senate to ensure speedy passage of Bill
Thank you for allowing us to appear before the standing committee.
The Chairman: I will call upon the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada
for their presentation and then we can ask questions of either party.
Ms Barbara McElgunn, Health Liaison, Learning Disabilities Association of
Canada: Mr. Chairman, honourable senators, while I will refer to my brief, my
comments will go beyond my brief because I want to comment on what you heard
yesterday and earlier today.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada is a national voluntary
association, driven by an army of volunteers, with affiliates in every province
and territory of Canada, dedicated to improving outcomes for the 10 to 15 per
cent of Canadians with neurologically based learning disabilities. Our
association encourages and disseminates research into the causes of learning
disabilities, with a goal of early diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
We are appearing before you today on a matter of significant importance to our
association and to all Canadians, and our provincial affiliates are with us on
this. Since we are advocates for children and adults with learning
disabilities, the focus of our submission is the potential for MMT to affect
neurodevelopment, but we agree that there are other good reasons, as we heard
this morning and yesterday, for supporting this bill. On that issue, I would
just comment on the discussions that were held at some length yesterday.
Yesterday, Ethyl said several times that EPA was required to rule that MMT does
not harm vehicles or vehicle emission systems, based on tests conducted with
various fleets, in response to their decision under the Clean Air Act. That is
true, but I think what we really need to do is to go to the Federal Register
report of that decision, because what it says is interesting. I have copies for
honourable senators. I will circulate them later.
The earliest set of test results under consideration here (tests of 1988
vehicles submitted with Ethyl's 1990 application) exhibit the most pronounced
MMT-caused emissions increases of the data generated by the applicant (about
0.02 gm/mi), but these increases fall substantially short of failure on the
determinative "cause or contribute" test (3 of 8 vehicle models tested
fail for HC and 4 of 8 models fail for CO, while 7 of the 8 models tested are
required to fail before the additive fails this overall test on either
There was an implication that everything was tickety-boo with those cars and
models that went through the testing, but this probably was not the case.
...the Agency nevertheless considers its existing tests and the criteria that
they implement to be obsolete under current conditions.
However, under the statutory authority they had to go ahead and make the
statement that the vehicles had all passed this particular test under these
criteria. I think that is an important point to notice from this docket. There
are other points in the docket that might be worth referring to as well.
I would also comment on Ethyl's presentation yesterday, where they implied that
the EPA could ban MMT anytime it wanted if it was concerned about health. That
is exactly what the EPA tried to do in this last process, but they were taken
to court by Ethyl, and they lost the case on a narrow decision. Its hands were
tied by the courts under that. The decision was that the EPA lacked authority
under the statute to ban a fuel additive based on health concerns alone.
We have copies of that particular decision here as well.
It was quite clear when they said that section 211(f)(4) instructs the
administrator to consider new fuel additives' effects only on emission
standards. The court held that the EPA erred in considering the health effects
of MMT in deciding whether to grant Ethyl a waiver for its fuel additive.
Therefore, EPA lost the case on that point, not on the fact that their health
data was weak. They have tried for about 20 years to keep MMT out of gasoline
in the United States and now have been forced to allow its introduction, but
tests are going on and it might change again.
I wanted to make those two points before I go on with our particular concerns
about this, which go back to the fact that children are usually more vulnerable
to toxic exposures, and the developing brain is a target organ for known
neurotoxins like manganese and its compounds.
In the early 1980s we became aware of the subtle but serious effects of
low-level lead exposures on children's brains that adversely affected their
mental development, including their IQs, their ability to learn and to pay
attention. Beginning in 1982, our association was active in Canada to have lead
removed from gasoline, which happened in 1990. You can see how long it took
under the health concern process. It took almost ten years.
Early in that process, Dr. Gesser, a toxicologist from the University of
Manitoba, warned about the use of MMT as a replacement for tetraethyl lead in
gasoline, in a letter to Macleans magazine, noting that detailed testing of the
manganese oxide aerosols had not been done and safe levels of exposure had not
been established. That is still the case, and it is the reason that the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency rejected Ethyl's request to market MMT until,
as I said, it was overruled by a federal appeals court, which said that they
lacked authority under the statute to ban a fuel additive based on health
In 1993, our association submitted a brief to the federal government stating our
concerns over the use of MMT as a gasoline additive. We questioned its use when
toxicity studies to establish its safety had not been carried out, and cited
the available research literature on manganese toxicity to developing nervous
systems. Manganese is neurotoxic to young organisms at levels that are non-toxic
to adult organisms. Manganese crosses the placenta easily. Manganese absorption
is high in early life and a significant part can be found in the brain. In the
Health Canada study, Grace Wood mentioned that accumulation and absorption in
infants has been found to be 10 times that of adults.
Unlike ingested manganese or manganese in the diet, the inhalation route of
exposure allows more manganese to be absorbed by the blood and pass directly to
the brain. Dr. Krewski made the point that they want to change their direction
with the Health Canada record on MMT.
The brain is of course the primary site of neurotoxicity. A primary feature of
manganese toxicity is its effect on dopamine, a key chemical transmitter in the
brain. Parkinson's disease reflects a dopamine deficiency in areas of the brain
and affects speech and movement. Manganism, or manganese toxicity, in its early
stages produces psychological disturbances -- which nobody really realizes is
manganese toxicity at that point -- neurobehavioural effects and then a disorder
similar to Parkinson's disease. The trivalent form of manganese from the use of
MMT may have a more profound effect on dopamine than the divalent form found in
food, leading to cell death if concentrations increase and of concern during
early brain development or during the aging period. This is an area that Dr.
John Donaldson, who is one of the experts on manganese toxicity, is concerned
about and has done work on.
In August 1996, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that three specific
dopamine-related genes have been associated with a spectrum of disorders,
including tourette syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct
disorder and stuttering. The report notes that once the dopamine-serotonin
neurotransmitter balance is upset, the resulting brain dysfunction can produce a
wide range of behavioural problems -- strongest for attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, stuttering, defiant behaviour and tics. For some time,
ADHD had been treated with ritalin or methylphenidate hydrochloride, a drug
that supplies dopamine to the brain, which supports this finding that brain
dopaminergic systems are involved in this common disorder in children. It also,
I should say, is a tragic disorder in children.
This new evidence is telling since manganese is known to disrupt these
neurochemical systems, especially in young animal models, with significant
effects on behaviour, particularly those having an activity component. For
neurotoxicants such as lead and manganese there may be no threshold or level
below which there is no effect. We just do not know. The studies have not been
done. Children who are undernourished, unfortunately a growing population, will
be more vulnerable to manganese exposure. Studies have found high levels of
manganese in the hair of hyperactive children and of violent criminals.
Several research scientists who have studied the effects of manganese on brain
chemistry and behaviour have expressed concern about its general and widespread
use as a gasoline additive. I mention a few of these. You will be hearing Dr.
Mergler, I think, on the February 11. She is one of the foremost world
authorities on manganese toxicity.
In 1978, a Health Canada report entitled "Methlcyclo- pentadienyl Manganese
Tricarbonyl (MMT): An Assessment of the Human Health Implications of its Use as
a Gasoline Additive" stated:
...there are no data available on the effects of chronic exposure to low
concentrations of manganese on special groups, such as pregnant women, children
and those with respiratory diseases.
The same report recommended the development of those response data to determine
the effects of inhalation of manganese on special risk groups, such as pregnant
women, infants and those with respiratory diseases. In other words, this report
recognized that toxicity information was necessary for an adequate risk
assessment. As noted previously, these have not been carried out, and it was
just this lack of such critical data that prompted EPA administrator Dr. Carol
Browner to state that the American public should not be used to test the safety
Health Canada in 1995, as you heard this morning, concluded that MMT in gasoline
is not a health concern. However, many individuals and organizations would
disagree that such a conclusion should be drawn in the absence of adequate
toxicity data. More than 40 organizations and scientists in the U.S. and Canada
oppose the use of MMT in gasoline because of concerns about health effects.
This includes the American Psychological Association, the American Parkinson's
Foundation and the Canadian Institute of Child Health.
The federal government has passed legislation to prohibit the use of MMT in
gasoline to prevent failures of emission control equipment on cars, which would
contribute to poorer air quality and related health problems. There is no doubt
that air quality in many urban areas of Canada is affecting the health of
It is for all of these reasons that the Learning Disabilities Association of
Canada is urging the Senate of Canada to take this opportunity to pass Bill
C-29 into law as quickly as possible.
Senator Kenny: One of the real difficulties we have had here as legislators is
that we have received many hours now of conflicting evidence from big auto and
big oil companies. You appear to be two groups that are not affiliated with
either big auto or big oil companies. Perhaps you can give us a perspective
that does not have a vested interest beyond the health and welfare of Canadians.
You have heard the evidence from both sides. What was the reason you so clearly
sided with the position of the auto companies or more precisely perhaps sided
against the position of the oil companies?
Ms McDowell: There is a debate going on out there. Various studies have been
done in good faith by the auto sector, by the petroleum industry and by Ethyl
Corporation. We are not technical experts; we are not health experts. However,
when it comes to children and potential risks to the health of children, we
must err on the side of caution and invoke the precautionary principle. It is
our feeling that the burden of resolving these conflicts should not fall on the
backs of the public. It makes absolute sense to us that public policy should
move in the direction of Bill C-29.
Ms McElgunn: That is a tough question to answer. In my own mind -- and this is
probably just a judgment -- I am saying why would all the auto companies
believe something like this? What is in it for them? Why would they say that
there are problems with the pollution control systems if they were not there?
It just stands to reason that they have nothing to gain by taking on this fight
so vociferously and tenaciously and to be speaking with one voice. I tend to
believe that there is a great deal to what they say. We saw them as allies
because we were all looking for the same thing, not necessarily that we
supported their position, but because they were allies in wanting to get
MMT-free gasoline into Canada.
Senator Kenny: You made note of the precautionary principle. Are you principally
concerned about manganese emissions as a result of MMT, or are you principally
concerned about the breakdown of the on-board diagnostic equipment that may
result in further pollution taking place?
Ms McElgunn: We are concerned about both, but our concern about the tetra-type
of manganese emissions coming from the tailpipe are probably a greater concern.
However, that is not to say that the other emissions are not a threat as well
and something to which we would not like to see children exposed. They live a
lot closer to the ground than we do, so they are probably getting a larger dose.
Also, they are smaller.
Questions have been raised as to whether this form of manganese might be even
more toxic. That would be our number one concern.
Ms McDowell: Pollution Probe is concerned about both issues. We are concerned
about both issues because health experts are debating the potential impact of
long-term, low-level exposure to MMT and two big industries are debating the
impact of MMT on the on-board diagnostic systems. Yes, we are concerned about
Pollution Probe has spent much of its time working on issues dealing with
ground-level ozone and human health effects. We know that smog and ground-level
ozone exceed levels considered safe by government standards in some places
across the country. We also know that 15 per cent of all infant respiratory
emissions in Ontario are due to poor air quality. One person a day in metro dies
because of high pollution levels. We have those studies and facts. We know that
reductions in smog-forming precursors depend, in part, on strict vehicle
emission standards and the proper functioning of the technology. We also know
that there is a debate as to the impact of MMT on that technology.
We have debates and we have conflict on an issue that could have a devastating
effect on children. We take this very seriously and both issues concern us.
Senator Kenny: Neither of you have mentioned Ethyl Corporation in your remarks.
Have you had experience with Ethyl Corporation on other issues? Do you have any
comments for the committee that you would like to give us on the corporation
and its products?
Ms McElgunn: I had a lot of experience with Ethyl Corporation over the lead
issue, because I was involved in that issue starting in 1982. I have a distinct
sense of déjà vu this time around. They are tough opponents and
it is not easy. They are not vicious opponents; they are just fighting for their
industry. Like all of us who have things we want to protect, we will do what we
must to protect them and do what we can to protect them. Nevertheless, it seems
like another go around this time.
Ms McDowell: Ken Ogilvie, our executive-director, would probably be better to
answer that question. I have not had any connection with Ethyl Corporation or
any experience with them. However, I know that two representatives with Ethyl
Corporation met with Mr. Ogilvie one week ago and they had a two-hour meeting
over this issue.
Ms McElgunn: We also met with Ethyl Corporation in Toronto on the new personal
exposure study. They kindly explained it to us.
Senator Kenny: Did you receive any comfort from that meeting?
Ms McElgunn: I think we will have to wait. As Dr. Langham said, these are
preliminary data. We will have to see how they shake down. It seemed like a
well-conducted study. They have crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's.
When you look at population-wide studies, you must be able to zero in on that
group that will probably be the most highly exposed. Sometimes you wash out
exposures when you are looking at urban-suburban areas and taking averages. I
would hope that we could tie it into people who are living in very dense,
downtown traffic areas to see what they are exposed to in the end. That will all
come out in the final analysis, which will take a while.
Senator Whelan: How many members do you have in each of your organizations?
Ms McElgunn: We have about 10,000 members across Canada.
Ms McDowell: We have approximately 25,000 members and about 40,000 donors.
Senator Whelan: Do you have any hired lobbyists?
Ms McElgunn: There is just myself, if you can call that "hired".
Senator Whelan: That is refreshing, indeed.
On page two of your submission, you say that manganese is neurotoxic to young
organisms at levels non-toxic to adult organisms, and that it crosses the
placenta easily. You then go on to say that it "is high in early life, and
a significant part can be found in the brain". However, we were told
yesterday, or maybe even this morning, that there is no carryover of manganese
in the system.
Ms McElgunn: That is not really the case. If you look at the Health Canada risk
analysis, which I read on the train coming up here yesterday, the point is made
that the absorption and the retention of manganese in infant organisms is 10
times that in adults. Other studies show the same thing.
Young organisms do not have the biological systems to detoxify things such as
manganese. Also, their blood brain barrier is immature and incomplete. There is
nothing to stop it from getting into the brain, especially during the prenatal
period of development, which is a rapid type of brain growth. For pregnant
women who are exposed to manganese in air, this manganese can cross into the
foetus and go directly to the foetal brain, because there is nothing to stop it
from going there. They do not have liver and kidney detoxification mechanisms.
We are most concerned about prenatal exposures and very early life exposures
for children because of their smaller size and their poorer abilities to
detoxify things that they receive systemically.
Senator Whelan: But there must have been post-mortems where you found the
Ms McElgunn: Most of the studies have been done in animal models and some have
been done on primates, which are the highest level of animals. Scientists
cannot ethically or morally dose pregnant women or children to see what will
happen, so we must use animal data. Most frequently the animal data is very
much in concordance with the human data, even in terms of the neurobehavioural
effects in adults. The placenta transfer was done in primate studies. Also, the
significant part that was found in the brain was from a primate study as well.
Senator Whelan: On page 4 of your brief, you state that "Health Canada, in
1995, concluded that MMT is not a health concern." You are disagreeing
with them by quoting how many more other organizations -- that is, more than 40
organizations of scientists in the U.S. and Canada -- oppose the use of MMT.
You are putting their submissions ahead of Health Canada's. I do, too.
Ms McElgunn: The Health Canada submission was well done. They came to a
different conclusion based on the same evidence. The evidence can only take you
so far and then you must make a judgment call.
They divided by an uncertainty factor of 300, whereas the EPA used an
uncertainty factor of 1,000 to protect children and to protect for chronic
exposures. The reference concentration in the United States for air is half
what Health Canada has put it at. But that does not make a lot of difference.
We have trouble with Health Canada's analysis in that we do not think you can
base the numbers on data obtained from healthy, adult workers. Children are not
little adults. There is not only a quantitative difference but a qualitative
difference in how they handle toxicants. You cannot say that a child is
one-tenth the size of an adult so therefore if we divide by 10 we will protect
children. You need the toxicological data because you do not know where to
start. It may be one-tenth, one-thousandth or one-ten-thousandth that is safe
for children. This is where we part company with the Health Canada assessment.
We do not think they should have made this conclusion without adequate toxicity
Senator Whelan: Pollution Probe says:
In particular, the "precautionary principle" was endorsed by many
nations at the 1992 Rio Summit, which was attended by heads of states of most
of the countries of the world. As a result, the practice of pollution
prevention has become the major direction for public and the private sector
policies and programs.
Canada was a leader in the development of these international environmental
principles and practices, which have been given substance through their
inclusion in legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,
and in government policy statements and ministerial speeches.
Do you find encouraging that statement made by the Government of Canada in 1992?
That was not a Liberal government; it was a Conservative government at that
time. You sounded as though you were given great encouragement by that
statement made in 1992. You say in your brief that Canada was a leader in the
development of these international environmental principles.
Have you no comment on that?
Ms McDowell: No, I do not, actually.
Senator Whelan: Your executive director certainly must have or he would not have
put it in writing.
Ms McDowell: I would be happy to have the answer to that question forwarded to
Senator Adams: With regard to learning disabilities in children, is it only MMT
which causes this?
Ms McElgunn: You are asking which chemicals we should be concerned about in
terms of their neurotoxic effects on children. Very little effort has been made
to look at this health end point in safety evaluations done by either Health
Canada or other agencies around the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is beginning to require data for pesticides. That is one large group of
chemicals for which we have concerns about neurotoxic exposures and effects,
because they are designed to affect the nervous system of pests. The second
group is heavy metals. Manganese falls into that group. We cannot test all the
60,000 to 80,000 chemicals which exist in commerce. However, there are priority
clusters of chemicals that have been recognized by scientists as needing this
type of assessment. Manganese would fall into one of those categories by virtue
of its being a heavy metal and being related to other heavy metals such as
lead, mercury and aluminum, all of which are known neurotoxicants. Everyone
knows that manganese is a neurotoxicant; it just has not been tested to see
what it does to young brains.
Senator Adams: Do your numbers include new immigrants to Canada? Some immigrants
may have had these problems before they arrived here.
Ms McElgunn: I think immigrants are tested for various diseases as they arrive
here. Our numbers include all citizens in Canada, immigrants or not.
Senator Adams: Do you have any record of Parkinson's disease before 1900?
Ms McElgunn: I do not know, but there is a general feeling that the incidence of
Parkinson's disease is rising, as well as Alzheimer's.
Senator Landry: In the 1940s, when General Motors came out with the first air
conditioning, the air intake was very near the park lights. When you were
caught in traffic, your car would fill with exhaust fumes from the cars around
you. You could not live in those cars. You had to roll down the windows. That
made me realize how an exhaust system smells. The next year they put the intake
below the windshield. Experiencing something like that makes you realize how bad
an exhaust system can be.
Senator Cochrane: I should like to ask a question of Pollution Probe related to
the document they presented.
On page 2 you say:
In the meantime, the public continues to be exposed to manganese from MMT,
despite the availability of substitutes...
What would you like to have to replace MMT?
Ms McDowell: We have not done enough research to say what we would prefer to
MMT. I know that there are others which exist, such as ethanol, which has been
claimed to be more environmentally benign than MMT. I would have to send you
some information on that. I do not have the research. However, ethanol is one
that comes to mind.
Senator Cochrane: On the last page of your brief you state:
Pollution Probe's view is that the evidence for MMT's health effects is not
conclusive in terms of its acceptable risk to Canadians. It also appears likely
that MMT interferes with auto emission control systems. Therefore, the public
is not assured that their health is adequately protected...
If you have that view, it seems to me that you would not want this legislation
to go through. Would you not require more testing by someone such as
Environment Canada or someone else?
Ms McDowell: The contaminant has been in our environment for 20 years now. After
5, 15 or 20 years of testing we may be able to make an absolute correlation
between human neurological damage and long-term low-level exposure to MMT.
Would that not be a sad day? What we are saying is we do not have time to wait
for these studies. By playing this kind of waiting game, it is dangerous and
risky to human health. The problem seems to be with the effects of long-term
low-level exposure to MMT. How do you test that?
Senator Cochrane: Transport Canada told us this morning that only 2 per cent of
pollutants are coming out of vehicles.
Ms McDowell: That is with the vehicle emission controls.
Senator Cochrane: My question is for the representative from the Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada. High levels of exposure on children's
brains, and so on, have been the result of many factors, as you know. Every
other day we hear about more factors. Just this week we heard of another factor
that is causing these problems, and that is hair dye. Probably next month we
will hear of another problem that exists. How do we control all these things?
Do you think that hair dye is as bad as MMT or manganese?
Ms McElgunn: It is important not to fall into what I sometimes call the "two
evils trap", which is that, because one thing is more problematic than the
other, we forget the other and work on it. We have here an issue about which we
know there are concerns. We know there are conflicts and tremendous
uncertainties. We know that MMT is carried in a vehicle by means of which it can
be disbursed to the whole population. As someone said yesterday, there is no
better way to get a pollutant into everyone's atmosphere than by putting it
The hair dye issue is important, too; but it is another issue. I have some
questions about why cosmetics are exempt from toxicity testing. I think that
things that we put on our skin or our hair should be analyzed carefully. That
is not done right now.
Senator Kinsella: Have either Pollution Probe or the Learning Disabilities
Association of Canada expressed any concern with the high levels of manganese
in the ambient air in the communities of Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie?
Ms McElgunn: I learned about the high levels of manganese in Sault Ste. Marie
and Hamilton only fairly recently. Through our Ontario association, we will
certainly do something in terms of getting to the Minister of the Environment
of Ontario in that regard. Those levels are truly unacceptable.
As well, the Ontario ambient air level for manganese is extremely high. I think
it is 2.5 micrograms per cubic metre compared to Health Canada's standard of
0.1. That is way out of line.
We will be making representations to the Ontario government via our Ontario
provincial association on that matter.
Senator Kinsella: Do you have any data related to the incidence of learning
disabilities in the population in those two communities that show a causal
connection between the high level of manganese in the environment and the
incidence of learning disabilities?
Ms McElgunn: That is an interesting question, and I think it should be looked
Senator Kinsella: There is no data, then?
Ms McElgunn: No.
The Chairman: Both your organizations contribute so much to our nation. I want
to thank you for being here and for sharing your views with us.
I now call upon representatives of the Canadian Automobile Association to
present their brief.
Mr. David Leonhardt, Manager, Public and Government Relations, Canadian
Automobile Association: I will start by reminding everyone what CAA is. The
Canadian Automobile Association is a federation of auto clubs. We represent
motorists, not the auto manufacturers or the dealers or the workers. We are
people such as yourselves who drive automobiles. As such, we come here to share
with you a consumer perspective.
I understand that over the last few days you have been listening to many
technical presentations with technical terms, percentages, and thresholds. This
presentation will not be like that. It will be about the effect of MMT in the
real world on those people who drive the vehicles and on the vehicles that they
We have been involved, as a number of you may be aware, with other fuel-related
issues, such as the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act. We have been
asking several Prime Ministers now to sign on the dotted line and put that into
effect. We have also worked with this committee in the legislation which you
pioneered two years ago on alternative fuels, and we were pleased to support
your work on that.
We are here, as we often are, representing a number of conflicting interests
that motorists have. Our surveys show that they do want to drive much cleaner
vehicles. At the same time, the cost of driving continues to rise. Motorists
are looking for solutions that will not involve huge increases in fees. We
believe that Bill C-29 is one of those measures.
You have had some representations from the oil industry, and The Globe and Mail
quoted them as saying the cost would be $70 million a year. Translated into a
per litre basis, that is one-sixth of a cent per litre. Whether that would make
a difference in the consumer's pocket is a big question when you take into
account the costs of maintenance that may be pushed aside as a result.
Before going into the reasons for CAA's deciding to support Bill C-29, I should
tell you that we do not see this as a black and white issue. We use a slightly
stronger term than the one that has been used previously, "precautionary
measure". There is much evidence, and we should not suggest that it is not
evidence, which has been brought forward here. Probably none of it is entirely
conclusive, but most of it points in the same direction, and we consider it
fairly strong. The strong evidence points to the fact that MMT does or could
have harmful effects. We are most concerned about the effects on a vehicle's
emissions system since the motorist is driving a vehicle and the emissions
systems make a difference on how much a vehicle will pollute as it is being
The catalytic converter is the first line of defence against pollution. I am
told that this committee has a certain amount of knowledge on how a catalytic
converter works, but it is worth mentioning again. It is like a honeycomb. It
may look small, but the surface inside is bigger than this room. They have that
surface because as your exhaust passes through the catalytic converter, there is
a chemical reaction between the surface and the exhaust which removes some of
the pollutants -- as Transport Canada said earlier, approximately 98 per cent,
in some cases, of the pollutants which cause smog and respiratory illnesses.
MMT contains manganese, a heavy metal. It leaves deposits on a number of
different pieces of equipment in the automotive system, including the catalytic
converters. The surface must interact with the exhaust, and a sheet of heavy
metal develops between them so that chemical reaction cannot take place. Those
deposits mean that your catalytic converter, the first line of defence against
pollution from your car, is likely to degrade much faster than if you did not
have that metal coating.
The second concern is about oxygen sensors. There are two concerns we will
mention, but there may be others. In the vehicle you are driving now, be it a
Taurus or a Camry, you have more computing power than the first flight that
went into outer space. Cars are no longer mechanical. You do not work with them
like you do with farm machinery. The computer runs everything, and the computer
gets its information on how to properly run everything through a number of
Oxygen sensors are one of the important inputs. Their original prime purpose was
to determine how much oxygen was in the oxygen fuel mix your engine is burning.
A common misconception is that you put gasoline into your tank and the engine
burns gasoline. It does not. It burns a mixture of gasoline and oxygen. When
that mixture is just right, your car operates very efficiently. If the engine
operates efficiently, you use less fuel. In all likelihood, that also means less
If, however, those oxygen sensors are covered with that sheet of heavy metal
from the manganese, the wrong signals may be sent to your on-board computer.
The wrong amount of air will go into the fuel your engine consumes, and it will
not operate efficiently. It will burn much more fuel. Ultimately, that costs
the motorists as well as the environment. If your engine does not operate
efficiently, it may require more maintenance.
The oxygen sensors, as you have also heard, affect on-board diagnostic systems
called OBD-II which are required in the U.S. and tentatively required in Canada
if MMT is removed from gasoline. We are concerned about the false alarms that
the manganese coating on the oxygen sensors may send to the computer. The whole
point of OBD-II is the light which flashes on your dashboard to advise you to
send your car to the garage because the emissions equipment is failing.
It may fail. Some tests have shown that it may, indeed, fail to send that
message. If that is what happens, Canadians are being deprived of the
effectiveness of OBD-II. This pro-environment technology, which is available on
American cars, Canadians will not have. That is something that concerns us as
the representatives of the motorists.
However, a bigger concern may be the false alarms when the light starts flashing
on and off when there is no failure. There are a number of scenarios that can
First, consumers may become irritated at constantly going into their dealership
or garage and being told that there is no problem; it is a malfunction. They
may disconnect the system, in which case, once again, we are being deprived of
this pro-environment technology which Americans have; or they may just become
irritated at the car company, wonder why it is that Ford or Honda cannot build a
decent car that does not have a false alarm, and go somewhere else. That is not
fair to the car company nor to the motorist, who will be irritated and, as a
result, will not trust this environmental technology.
In another scenario, when they take their car in because the light has been
flashing, the dealer or the garage may undertake some repairs which are totally
unnecessary. The motorist is paying for these repairs, if it is out of
warranty. The car company may pay for repairs if it is under warranty. Either
way, the consumer is the one who pays in the end. In the final scenario,
companies try to avoid losing customers and to avoid paying for unnecessary
repairs under warranty by simply not offering the technology to Canadians.
The bottom line is that, if MMT remains in gasoline, we are fairly convinced
that we will be deprived of this environmental technology in one way or another
-- by regulation or by practice, whether above board or in the alleyways by
disconnecting some switches.
One other thing we thought we would bring to the table is a bit of a reality
check. You have heard from many parties. Some have vested interests. Some, as
the groups before us, do not. That was noted. We know Ethyl's vested interest.
This is their main market for their main product, MMT. At least this is their
main developed-world market. It is central. Obviously, whether MMT is benign or
harmful, they will oppose Bill C-29. The petroleum industry will not want to
retool. If it will cost a little bit, they will oppose it. That vested interest
On the other side of the debate, you have the auto industry with yet a third
vested interest here. But think for a moment about their vested interest --
losing customers because of false alarms on their OBD systems if MMT is in
gasoline. If MMT is not in gasoline, that is not a concern. Having to pay for
huge warranty repairs -- again, if MMT remains in gasoline, that is a vested
interest. If it is removed, it is not.
We could not come up with a single reason why the auto industry would be
opposing this or would have a vested interest, if it was not harmful. That may
not be scientific evidence, but it is just one of the other indicators to add
to the available information, the photos and the auto parts that we have seen
coated with the red manganese.
I would like to close with a quote from the Ontario State of the Environment
Report which was just recently released:
As ambient concentrations of lead have declined, however, those of another
metal, manganese, have increased. Manganese was used as a substitute for lead
in unleaded gasoline. Annual average concentrations of manganese increased
steadily through the 1980s and was almost twice as high at the end of the
decade as they were at the beginning.
Notwithstanding the poor grammar found throughout that quote, that is a
Government of Ontario report. It is another indicator, more evidence that shows
there is something going on here about which we should be seriously concerned.
I would use a word slightly stronger than a "precautionary" approach.
This is really not up to CAA to decide; it is for you people to decide. If you
choose not to ban MMT, 20 years from now you may all be sighing a collective
sigh of relief, or you may be facing witnesses here and apologizing for damage
that has been done and then deciding to ban it.
Perhaps "precautionary" is a good word, but it could be a little
stronger. There is a good balance of risk here. We should be removing this from
gasoline. It probably should not have been in gasoline until it was proven to
be benign. There is fairly clear evidence that it is harmful to the environment
and it is harmful to the automobiles themselves and possibly to human health.
Senator Whelan: How many members does your association have in Canada?
Mr. Leonhardt: We have 3.8 million members in every province.
Senator Whelan: You have sent a flier to all of them on MMT?
Mr. Leonhardt: We have not asked specific questions about MMT. This is a
complicated, technical issue. The questions we have asked deal more with the
broad brushstrokes: How important is it to drive cleaner vehicles? Are they
interested in alternative fuels? Are they willing to pay for them? Are they
willing to pay taxes because vehicles pollute? They said no. Are they willing to
pay to reduce pollution from automobiles? They are willing to do that and are
interested in that. Are they willing to pay high amounts? Maybe not. Are they
willing to pay for adjustments which will be low in cost? Definitely.
Senator Whelan: Do you get many calls about the flashing light on the dashboard?
Do they park their car and call the auto club and wait for two hours? I have
been a member of an auto club for 35 years.
Mr. Leonhardt: This has not come up in the real world as an issue yet, because
the technology is just coming on to the vehicles now. A number of the new
vehicles that are sold in the United States will have that light. Here, the
same vehicle will have that light disconnected because the automakers are not
willing to lose customers through false alarms or to pay for the warranty
Senator Adams: Are mechanics able to keep up with the new models? In the old
days, there was no problem to fix everything. Now everything is computerized.
Sometimes I have had to go back twice because they could not find the problem
Does your organization know how mechanics are keeping up with all the new
products coming out?
Mr. Leonhardt: We do not even call them mechanics now. We call them technicians.
Senator Adams: There are so many new things out now. How does the technician
know what is causing the problem?
Mr. Leonhardt: That, of course, is a concern. Looking ahead 10 or 20 years, will
we have enough trained technicians? This is no longer something for people with
little education. If you want to be an automotive technician now, you need a
fairly good technical understanding and you need to understand at least some
basics about computers.
The environmental concept of on-board diagnostics has been added for OBD-II.
There was an OBD-I, and that was also incorporated into it, whereby mechanics
can plug into a range of equipment that they have in their garages and be able
to diagnose what problems there are. How fail-safe or extensive that is, I do
not know. I do not have the technical know-how to go into that.
Senator Adams: There is a variety of weather in Canada. I drive a Crown
Victoria. A couple weeks ago the weather went to minus 35. The light came on
which said to check the engine. Later on, I stopped and started again and the
light did not come back on. Is that as a result of the cold weather?
The Chairman: You need Senator Whelan's son-in-law to answer that question.
Senator Bosa: The presentation was so thorough and concise that I am at a loss
to ask a question. I would congratulate both Mr. Leonhardt and Ms Meister for
Mr. Leonhardt: We appreciate that.
The Chairman: Thank you very much for being with us.
We will proceed in camera at this point.
The committee continued in camera.