Lab Tests Find 60 Toxic Chemicals in
Environment News Service
Published November 15, 2005
OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, November 15, 2005 (ENS) - Only
11 Canadians had their blood tested for toxic chemicals
in a new study by an environmental nonprofit organization,
but they came from across the country and every person's
blood tested positive for a wide range of chemicals. Stain
repellants, flame retardants, mercury and lead, DDT, and
PCBs are among the 60 contaminants detected by blood tests.
The report, released Thursday by Environmental Defence,
is the first in Canada to test for a broad range of chemicals
in average Canadians from across the country. The testing
demonstrates that toxic chemicals contaminate Canadians
no matter where they live in the country, how old they
are or what they do for a living, concludes the report,
"Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians."
“If you can walk, talk and breathe, you’re contaminated,”
said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental
Defence. “Canadians are exposed everyday and in incredibly
insidious ways to harmful toxic chemicals. We are guinea
pigs in a massive, uncontrolled, chemical experiment,
the disastrous outcome of which is measured in disease
Many of the chemicals discovered in the bodies of Canadians
are associated with cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive
disorders, respiratory illnesses and harming the development
of children, Smith said.
Nycole Turmel lives in Gatineau, in southern Quebec. Fifty-one
of the 88 chemicals tested were detected in Turmel's blood,
including 34 carcinogens. (Photo courtesy ED)
Two volunteers were tested in British Columbia, one in
Alberta, one in Manitoba, three in Ontario, three in Quebec
and one in Newfoundland and Labrador. Most eat organic
foods, and some are vegetarian. Only two smoke tobacco.
On average, 44 chemicals were found in each volunteer.
“I think of myself as a healthy person, so of course
I found my test results to be unsettling," said Nycole
Turmel, national president of the Public Service Alliance
of Canada, based in Ottawa. The tests found 51 chemicals
in Turmel's blood.
"No one wants to learn that they have heavy metals,
PCBs or other toxic chemicals in their blood,” said Turmel.
“But more importantly, my tests results have underlined
for me the importance of strengthening CEPA." The
Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is Canada’s
national pollution law.
Qualified laboratories in Quebec and Texas tested the
volunteers for 88 different chemicals and found a total
of 60 of the 88 chemicals tested (68 percent).
Of the chemicals detected, 53 can cause reproductive
disorders and harm the development of children, 41 are
suspected cancer-causing chemicals, 27 are chemicals that
can disrupt the hormone system, and 21 are chemicals associated
with respiratory illnesses.
Chief David Masty lives in Whapmagoostui, in northern
Quebec. The study found 51 of 88 chemicals in Masty's
blood, including 36 cancer causing chemicals. (Photo courtesy
“I am very alarmed by the results of my blood tests for
pollutants,” said David Masty, Chief of the Whapmagoostui
First Nation in northern Quebec.
Chief Masty had the highest levels of mercury and persistent
organic pollutants such as PCBs and organochlorine pesticides.
These findings are further evidence for the fact that
many chemicals tend to accumulate in the North, despite
its distance from most stationary sources of industrial
“The movement of pollutants through the atmosphere is
a reality we are concerned about in the North as it harms
our lands, waters and air, and affects the wildlife resources
we depend on for our way of life," said Chief Masty.
"If other countries have taken action to reduce or
eliminate some pollutants, Canada should follow suit."
One of the British Columbia volunteers is the renowned
artist and naturalist Robert Bateman, who makes his home
on Salt Spring Island. “Participating in this testing
program was very important to me,” Bateman said. “Not
only am I curious about my own chemical contamination,
but it is even more vital that the public as a whole pays
Wildlife painter Robert Bateman now lives on Saltspring
Island, BC. He spent 55 years in southern Ontario. (Photo
The Toxic Nation study found 48 chemicals in Bateman's
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was passed in
1999, and includes a mandated five-year review of the
progress Environment Canada and Health Canada have made
in assessing and categorizing 23,000 substances during
the past five years.
Before changes to the law, if any, are finalized, Environmental
Defence is using the Toxic Nation report to call on the
federal government to virtually eliminate the use of toxic
chemicals, starting with some of the most harmful.
The organization cites the dangers of brominated flame
retardants (PBDEs). Preliminary evidence suggests that
high concentrations of PBDEs may cause neurobehavioral
alterations and affect the immune system in animals. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified one
PBDE, decabromodiphenyl ether, as a possible human carcinogen.
The report mentions the hazards of phthalates, which
are chemicals that make plastics soft. When soft plastic
toys are sucked or chewed, the phthalates can leach into
the saliva. One phthalate, DEHP, is considered by the
U.S. EPA to be a probably human carcinogen, based on the
liver cancers developed by rats and mice that were exposed
to the substance.
Environmental Defence is calling on the government of
Canada to make industry accountable for its chemicals
and to regulate chemicals in consumer products through
the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The government should create a special section in CEPA
to focus on pollution reduction in the Great Lakes basin,
the nonprofit group recommends, and most of all the law
must be effective.
"We need a pollution law with teeth - one that is
comprehensive and enforceable. We need a law that will
hold polluters accountable and help create a cleaner environment,"
“Our report demonstrates clearly the urgent need for
the federal government to act now to break the cycle of
human contamination,” said Smith. “The federal Minister
of the Environment has a new deadline: when can we expect,
as a society, to be able to produce toxin-free babies?”
"Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians,"
including test results of the individual volunteers, is
online at: www.toxicnation.ca.
Individual Canadians can act to reduce their exposure
to toxic chemicals by taking the Chemical Reduction Pledge
on the Toxic Nation site. By filling out the pledge, people
can choose five ways to reduce their exposure to chemicals
through simple changes in their daily lives.