The principle of community right to know is that we are all, as individuals, entitled to information about chemical hazards present in our environment.
We have the right to know about:
- chemicals in our communities
- harmful ingredients in products
- the health impacts of our occupations and workplaces
Community right to know allows us to:
- make informed decisions and take knowledgeable action about our work and living conditions
- empowers us to act as informed consumers and citizens
- encourages proactive improvement by businesses and organizations by, for example:
- encouraging manufacturers to substitute safer materials for human carcinogens in their products
- persuading industries to reduce the use, disposal and release of hazardous substances
- encouraging clear and transparent priority-setting processes and opportunity for action
In the past 20 years, community right to know has become a central and successful part of environmental policy in many countries. For example, in the US, emissions of 260 known carcinogens and reproductive toxins dropped by almost 50% after that country passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Canada is falling behind. It is hard for people to find out about toxic chemicals in their neighbourhoods, workplaces and homes. Sources of information, such as the National Pollutants Release Inventory and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, exist but could be more accessible.