A lot can happen over ten years. When we first put on our toxic avenger capes back in 2005, we wanted to reduce Canadians’ exposure to cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals in their homes and workplaces. But we didn’t know where this journey would take us and the enormous impact we would have on policies and regulations in Canada.
Now, ten years later, we are taking a moment to look back at what we have accomplished along the way. And we want to say thank you to you and thousands of Environmental Defence supporters who made our campaigns possible. Thank you for speaking out, taking action, making donations, and spreading the word.
Our grassroots support has been augmented by partner organizations and businesses across Canada in an unprecedented push to get rid of toxics.
Here are some of the achievements that you’ve helped make possible:
The past decade, we investigated toxic chemicals lurking in products and people. Our lab tests found toxic ingredients in men’s body care products, the dangerous antibacterial agent triclosan in Canadians’ bodies, and air pollutants in popular conventional cleaning products.
Our reports have been crucial in spurring debate, and influencing changes in regulations and industry practices. Just to give you two examples: Polluted Children, Toxic Nation (released in 2006) broke new ground in testing for harmful chemicals like PCBs and flame retardants in children’s bodies. Seven years later, in 2013, we published Pre-Polluted: A report on toxic substances in the umbilical cord blood of Canadian newborns.
Working with companies and communities
But it wasn’t just in the field of research where we made progress. Over the years, we have also worked with many businesses and passionate individuals making everyday products safer for all Canadians.
In 2010, we kicked off our Just Beautiful campaign to educate Canadians about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and in 2012 we created the Just Beautiful Pledge to recognize manufacturers who make safer personal care products, like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and body wash.
We also wanted to give Canadians the knowledge and tools needed to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals at home. To do this, we partnered with Breast Cancer Action Montreal (now Breast Cancer Action Quebec) to offer Chemical Detective workshops across Canada in 2014 and 2015. Workshops have been held in communities from Halifax to Vancouver.
Creating policy change
Our advocacy work helped to achieve big wins. In 2008, Canada banned Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles thanks in part to our work educating parents about this toxic chemical. Three years later, after years of raising awareness of the negative health impacts of phthalates, the hormone disruptor was banned from use in Canadian toys. And in 2012, Environment Canada declared triclosan toxic, following many years of Environmental Defence working to raise awareness about the harmful effects of this chemical.
More recently, the federal government’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist added new restrictions on formaldehyde in certain cosmetics. Limits on heavy metals in cosmetics have also been finalized by Health Canada. Also, thanks to the help of concerned consumers and organizations, Loblaw, one of Canada’s largest retailers, announced that they are phasing out of phthalates, triclosan, and microbeads from store brand products.
Making the bestseller list (twice!)
In addition to changes we created in government and industry, another accomplishment we added to our list was putting two toxics books on the bestseller list. Back in 2009, Dr. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, our Executive Director and Board President at that time, published a book to help educate Canadians about toxic chemicals hiding in products they use every day. That book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, skyrocketed onto the bestseller list in Canada, where it stayed for 16 weeks. Four years later, they wrote a follow-up book called Toxin/Toxout, which was also a bestseller.
More to come …
All of this is only just a glimpse of what we’ve accomplished over the past ten years thanks to your help. But our work to kick out harmful chemicals from Canadians’ homes and workplaces is far from over.
Looking ahead, we’re working to improve transparency and disclosure when it comes to products and services containing carcinogens or reproductive toxicants. We will also continue our work to educate Canadians and to advocate for government action. By working together, we can make everyday products safer and regulations stronger to protect the health of all Canadians.
We can’t wait to see where the next phase of this journey takes us. And we hope you will join us. Thank you for your support.
Stay up to date on our toxics work throughout 2016, and find out how you can make a difference, by signing up for our Toxics Update newsletter or by following Environmental Defence on Facebook or Twitter.