Statement by Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager
Toronto, Ont. –The findings of Health Canada’s Fifth Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada, part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey published today, are clear evidence that Canadians urgently need stronger laws to protect them from exposure to toxic chemicals.
The main takeaway from the report is that Canadians continue to be exposed to a soup of harmful chemicals including hormone disruptors and chemicals that adversely impact the development of children.
The results demonstrate that virtually all Canadians are exposed to several phthalates, a group of chemicals linked to reproductive health impacts and other adverse outcomes. These chemicals are widely used as fragrance ingredients and softeners in plastic materials. It is particularly disconcerting that for some phthalates, exposure in children seems considerably higher than in adults.
In 2017, the Canadian federal government decided not to declare a group of 28 phthalates as toxic, despite acknowledging their significant health hazards. This is a big departure from actions taken by international regulatory agencies such as the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recently concluded that cumulative exposures to phthalates is a significant public health concern, and the European Union that has designated several phthalates as substances of very high concern due to their reproductive health risks.
The findings also confirm long-standing public health concerns regarding the disproportionate toxic exposures experienced by women who are physiologically more vulnerable to the impacts of certain chemicals. For instance, parabens, a group of unregulated chemicals that are suspected hormone disruptors and which are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, are detected at higher levels in Canadian women than men.
Furthermore, while levels of bisphenol A or BPA detected in Canadians seem to have declined over the years, the results show that 8 out of 10 Canadians may be exposed to this hormone-disrupting chemical on any given day. The findings do not show whether exposure to harmful replacements such as BPS and BPF have increased in Canadians as a result of BPA being increasingly removed from products, such as food cans and receipts, thanks to advocacy by consumer and environmental groups.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), a law enacted to protect Canadians from toxic chemicals. The latest analysis of Canadians’ body burden of chemicals evidently illustrates that CEPA has largely failed to prevent people’s exposure to toxic chemicals from consumer products, especially the most vulnerable Canadians.
Fortunately, in 2018, the federal government promised to introduce a bill to strengthen CEPA as soon as possible after the federal election, and four of Canada’s major political parties committed to reforming this critical law in their election platforms. We urge the federal government to move quickly to introduce a bill to strengthen CEPA and ensure its passage within a timely manner, to enable more effective regulatory protections from toxic chemicals.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
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