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.
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Timeline of our success
We tested common children food products sold in Canada for the presence of glyphosate, Canada’s top-selling weed killer and the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. The results were shocking. Canada needs to protect us from harmful chemicals like glyphosate.
Everyday, products that lack ingredient lists and warning labels expose Canadians to toxic chemicals. Our report, Full Disclosure, sheds light on consumer perceptions of current product labelling practices for cleaning and personal care products and proposes solutions to ensure people are enabled to make informed choices to protect them from toxic chemicals.
Drinking water test results from Toronto and Montreal had higher levels of a hormone disrupting pesticide than what is European governments consider safe. Health Canada committed to conducting a special review investigating the risks associated with drinking and surface water contamination with the harmful herbicide
Our new comic book, Uncanny Toxics: Vanquishing an Invisible Enemy creatively illustrates the urgency of daily toxic exposures and the opportunity we have to strengthen human health and environmental protections.
After a 15-month long review, a federal parliamentary committee made 87 recommendations to strengthen Canada’s toxics law, including virtually all of the recommendations proposed by Environmental Defence and partner organizations.
Dry cleaning uses a toxic chemical solvent called PERC to clean clothes. We launched our Rethink Dry Cleaning campaign and worked with Toronto-based fashion designers to promote wet cleaning as the toxic-free alternative to conventional dry cleaning.
Launched our legal case against the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for refusing to proceed with a request to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions fraud.
Federal Minister Catherine McKenna agrees that Canada’s main toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, is outdated and commits to considering improvements to that Act by June 2018.
Health Canada decides to ban imidacloprid from major agricultural uses and launches a special review on thiamethoxam and clothianidin.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only two years after launching our Just Beautiful campaign, new Canadian restrictions for heavy metals in cosmetics are announced.
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.
After years of raising awareness of the negative health impacts of phthalates, this hormone disruptor was banned or restricted for use in Canadian toys.
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.
The federal government institutes the Chemicals Management Plan and Consumer Products Safety Act, responding to our outreach and public education to limit toxics chemicals.
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.
Canada banned Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles thanks to our work educating parents about this toxic chemical.
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.
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.
"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.
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Change happens when people like you express your concern and make your voice heard. Join our email community to receive updates about Environmental Defence’s work and find ways you can help our efforts to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.