Using the Ontario Toxics Reduction Act for targeted cancer-specific prevention strategies (TRA)

Status: Complete


Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Act (TRA) is one of the most comprehensive tools in Canada available for tracking pollution prevention and toxics use reduction, yet there is no program in place to assess the progress of this policy intervention. The TRA was modeled after the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act of 1989 (TURA). Massachusetts evaluated its TURA program and reported a significant reduction of toxic chemical use and release, in addition to economic benefits and technological advances in manufacturing, utilities and other sectors.

A study by Jacobs et al. (2014) assessed trends in the use and release of carcinogens in Massachusetts following the implementation of the state’s TURA program and quantified changes in the use and release of carcinogens over time by grouping carcinogens by their associated cancer sites. The results from that study found declines among many carcinogens, including, for example, the decline in the use and release of lung carcinogens by 31% and 77%, respectively.


The goal of this study was to leverage data from the Ontario TRA to assess trends in the reported number and amount of known and suspected carcinogens used and released by select industrial facilities in Ontario between 2011 and 2015. The scope of this study focused on carcinogens associated with specific cancer types to estimate the use and release of select carcinogens associated with the cancers with the highest incidence reported in Ontario.


In this study, data from Ontario’s TRA program were retrieved online to assess trends in the use and emission of 17 known and suspected carcinogens. The carcinogens selected for analysis in this study were associated with the seven most prevalent cancers diagnosed in Ontario, and reported by industrial facilities in Ontario from 2011 to 2015. We adopted a similar approach to the one used by Jacobs et al. (2014) to examine trends in carcinogen use and release by cancer type.

Results and Implications:

This study identified some key groups of carcinogens as among the most used and released carcinogens in Ontario. These carcinogens included those associated with lung cancers, leukemia and lymphomas. Overall, for 2011 to 2015, we observed a reduction in the industrial use of carcinogens, except among breast carcinogens which increased by 20%. An increase in the industrial releases of carcinogens was observed across all cancer sites, except among lung carcinogens which decreased by 28%.

The study underscores the utility of toxics use reduction programs to support cancer prevention initiatives by promoting targeted reduction in exposures to industrial carcinogens. Reductions in the use of carcinogens that are among the most used by industries (e.g. lung carcinogens) could minimize potential occupational exposures among workers that work with particular carcinogens identified in this study and lower overall cancer risk.



This study was funded by a research grant from Cancer Care Ontario.

Research Team:

Cathy Slavik (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, McMaster University)
Sheila Kalenge (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Paul A Demers (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, University of Toronto)