Political Chemicals Case Study Three: The Toronto Lead Controversy

Part of the Environmental Ethics and Science Policy book series (EESP, volume 1)


Lead is known to cause harmful effects at certain levels of concentration in the blood and organs, but the standards for lead are controversial everywhere. Why is this so? If the toxicity of lead is not really in dispute, why are so many governmental agencies involved? Why are so many commissions, committees and inquiries necessary? What is forcing the growing stringency of the lead standards, and what scientific issues keep the debate going? Or is science being debated?


Blood Lead Level Expert Committee Public Hearing Citizen Group Ministry Official 
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  1. 1.
    Donald A. Chant, Frank A. DeMarco and H. Rocke Robertson, Report of the Committee to Inquire into and Report upon the Effect on Human Health of Lead from the Environment, (Toronto: Ministry of Health, October 29, 1974) pp. 42–43.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    James F. MacLaren Limited, National Inventory of Sources and Emissions of Lead (1970), (Ottawa: Environment Canada, November 1973), Air Pollution Control Directorate, E.P.S., Internal Report APCD 73–7.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See, Liora Salter, “Science and Peer Review: The Canadian Standard-Setting Experience,” Science Technology & Human Values, Volume 10, Issue 4, (Fall 1985), pp. 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bruce G. Doern, Michael Prince and Garth McNaughton, Living with Contradictions: Health and Safety Regulation and Implementation in Ontario, Study No. 5 of the Royal Commission on Matters of Health and Safety Arising from the Use of Asbestos in Ontario, (ISBN: 0–7743–7056–4, February, 1982), p. 2.38.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 2.41.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    G. L. Stopps, Summary Statement on Air Quality Standards and Criteria, Paper presented December 19, 1974, to the Environmental Hearing Board, p. 18.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Review of Air Quality Standards for Lead, Report submitted with a letter from W. B. Drowley, Executive Director, Air and Land Pollution Control, Ministry of the Environment, to G. W. Moss, Public Health, City Hall, Toronto, dated December 13,1973.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Other evidence that airborne standards were used as the basis for all other standards is also taken from: M. L. Phillips and H. P. Sanderson, Report on Air Quality Objectives for Airborne Lead, (Downsview, Ont.: Atmospheric Chemistry, Criteria and Standards Division, Atmospheric Environment Service, April 9, 1974), Internal Report ARQA-3–74, See Table 10, where assumptions for derivation of blood lead levels are stated.Google Scholar
  9. 10a.
    See, Bruce C. Martin and P. C. Kupa, The Rationale, Methodology and Administration Used in Ontario to Determine Ambient Air Objectives and Emission Standards, Paper presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Air Pollution Control Association, June 19–24, 1977.Google Scholar
  10. 10b.
    See also: Robert B. Gibson, Control Orders and Industrial Pollution Abatement in Ontario, (Toronto: The Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation, 1983) Note. 37, p. 38 for other references to procedures.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For a description and analysis of this procedure see, Robert C. Gibson, op. cit..Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See, Bruce G. Doern, et al, op. cit., p. 2.28. Doern says the asbestos standards were the ACGIH standards.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    For a discussion of the various control orders issued during and after the controversy, see, Linda McCaffrey, CELA News, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 20–21.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    For a description of these events, see, Wendy C. MacKeigan, The Case of Lead Pollution in Toronto: Scientific Information and Public Response, unpublished MA dissertation, University of Toronto, 1975, p. 16.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Refer to Canada Metal Co., et al and MacFarlane (1973), D.L.R. (3d) 161.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    See, H. R. S. Ryan, “The Trial of Zundel, Freedom of Expression and the Criminal Law,” Criminal Reports, (Third Series), Vol. 44, Part 4, June 1,1985,44 C. R. (3d), pp. 334–351.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    A total of ten studies and reports were produced during and after the controversy by the university scientists, not including their brief to the Environmental Assessment Board and a document entitled, Lead: The Issues and the Risk — A report for Human Environmental Systems, (Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto), April 14, 1976, prepared by K. Beatty, A. Howell and S. Staiman.Google Scholar
  18. 26.
    See, Liora Salter, “Observations on the Politics of Risk Assessment: The Captan Case,” Canadian Public Policy, Vol. XI, No. 1, (March 1985), pp. 64–76.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Court proceedings Re: Canada Metal Co. Ltd. and MacFarlane, 1973, (High Court of Justice), 31–1 O.R. (2d), p. 587.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
  21. 29.
    Ibid., pp. 589–90.Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    Ibid., p. 591.Google Scholar

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

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