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Canada Amends Regulations on Phosphorous in Cleaning Products

The Canadian government has amended the regulations governing the concentration of phosphorous in cleaning products in order to exempt from those requirements cleaning products in transit through Canada and make certain clarifications.

Canadian authorities note that the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation limits the ability of a WTO member to apply technical regulations to goods moving through its territory from a point outside its territory to another foreign point. The phosphorous regulations likely constitute a “technical regulation” as defined in the TFA because they are mandatory, apply to an identifiable product and clearly outline the product’s characteristics. Specifically, section 117 of the Concentration of Phosphorous in Certain Cleaning Products Regulation prohibits the importation of cleaning products or water conditioners that contain prescribed nutrients (including phosphorus) in excess of prescribed values, and the regulations did not previously provide an exemption for goods in transit.

In place since 1989, the regulations set recordkeeping requirements and limits for the concentration of phosphorus in laundry detergents, household dishwashing compounds and certain household cleaners that can be manufactured or imported into Canada. They were introduced as a response to growing concerns regarding the over-fertilisation of freshwater ecosystems and growth of harmful algae blooms in Canada’s lakes and rivers. The scope of the regulations was broadened in 2009 to include household cleaning products and dishwashing compounds. Since household metal cleaners and de-greasing compounds do not generally enter the wastewater system, concentration limits for phosphorus were not applied to products used exclusively for these purposes.

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