When brushing your teeth, sitting on your couch, or cleaning your kitchen counter, you could be unknowingly exposing yourself to toxic chemicals. Nasty chemicals continue to linger in products Canadians use daily, and many of these toxic chemicals have links to serious health issues like cancer, obesity, or asthma.
To protect human health, we need to reduce Canadians’ exposure to toxic chemicals in products we use every day. That means industry action to take harmful ingredients out of consumer products, government action to ban and restrict toxic chemicals and informed consumers equipped with the knowledge to choose safe options when they shop.
Consumers don’t always know what’s in the products they buy. We’re working to make full ingredient disclosure on product labels a reality—including warnings if there are any chemicals linked to cancer present.
Getting the toxics out
Canadians shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in products in the first place. That’s why we're working hard to get toxic chemicals like triclosan banned, phased-out or restricted by provincial and federal governments.
Avoiding toxic chemicals in everyday products gets much easier once you know what to look for. To help, we provide downloadable guides and a list of our Just Beautiful Pledge companies; we also organize free community workshops with other organizations.
Timeline of our success
We spurred cities across Canada into action after releasing a report showing arsenic was polluting the sand of children’s playgrounds made with pressure treated wood.
We published the report Polluted Children, Toxic Nation—the first Canadian study to test for harmful chemicals like PCBs and flame retardants in children's bodies.
Canada banned Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles thanks to our work educating parents about this toxic chemical.
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, co-authored by our then Executive Director Dr. Rick Smith and Board President Bruce Lourie, made the bestseller list for 16 weeks in Canada.
The federal government institutes the Chemicals Management Plan and Consumer Products Safety Act, responding to our outreach and public education to limit toxics chemicals.
We launched our Just Beautiful campaign to educate Canadians about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and created the Just Beautiful Pledge to recognize manufacturers who make safer personal care products.
After years of raising awareness of the negative health impacts of phthalates, this hormone disruptor was banned or restricted for use in Canadian toys.
Our report The Trouble with Triclosan raised the alarm about this hormone-disrupting, anti-bacterial chemical. The same year, Environment Canada declared triclosan toxic to the environment.
Only two years after launching our Just Beautiful campaign, new Canadian restrictions for heavy metals in cosmetics are announced.
We published our report Pre-Polluted: A report on toxic substances in the umbilical cord blood of Canadian newborns which contains first of its kind evidence demonstrating that babies are being burdened with a toxic chemical load before they are born.
Toxin Toxout, the follow-up to Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith (special volunteer advisor to Environmental Defence) and Bruce Lourie (former Environmental Defence board member) is published and becomes a Canadian best-seller.
To help Canadians learn more about how to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals in their homes, we launched the Chemical Detective workshops. Since then, workshops have been conducted in communities from Halifax to Vancouver.
As we continue to raise concerns about harmful ingredients in cosmetics, the federal government’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist includes new restrictions on formaldehyde in cosmetics.
We helped raise awareness about the dangers of neonicotinoids (neonics)—a group of pesticides known to kill bees and other pollinators. In June, new restrictions on neonics in the province of Ontario were announced.
Because of efforts of concerned consumers and organizations like ours, Loblaw, one of Canada’s largest retailers, announced the phasing out of phthalates and triclosan from its store brand products (along with microbeads).
With our first-of-its-kind study on household cleaning, The Dirty Truth, we showed that common cleaning products are adding to indoor air pollution through volatile organic compounds, a group of chemicals linked to serious health problems like asthma.
Our report, Removing the Stain, sheds light on how cancer-causing chemicals continue to pollute dry cleaning workers and nearby residents. It’s time to transition to non-toxic wet cleaning.
After we mobilized ten thousands of Canadians, the federal government announced its plans to ban microbeads in personal care products by mid-2019. This step came after the harmful plastic bits were declared 'toxic' under federal law in June.
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WHAT YOU CAN DO
Big problems require big solutions, and all of us can help make the changes we want to see. By signing petitions and attending events, you can make your voice heard and help to affect change.
Take the quiz. What grade would you give toxics regulations in Canada?
Action: Ask Canada to Improve Toxic Chemical Regulation
take action now.
Action: Tell the Ontario government to label products which contain chemicals linked to cancer.
take action now.
Action: Tell Canada to ban atrazine, a harmful pesticide
take action now.
"After 10 years as a beauty industry professional, I became ill. Since, I have made it my mission to offer safer products, techniques and promote a healthier attitude to beauty. And that is why I support the work of Environmental Defence."
--Brian Phillips, Owner of worldSALON
MEET THE TEAM
At Environmental Defence, we educate the public about a host of environmental issues, work with business and government leaders to advise on policy decisions and mobilize Canadians to create the cleaner, greener more prosperous country we’re striving for. Meet the team who works on Toxics.
Join The Community
Sign up for our Kicking out Toxic Chemicals e-newsletter to find out how you can get involved and get toxic chemicals out of consumer products. We will send you a quarterly update on our campaigns, invitations to join us at events and opportunities for you to take action.