Nt’l Check-Up On Chemicals

The Department of Health is expanding a national check-up on Canadians’ exposure to lead, pesticides, PCBs and other substances. Thousands of people will be tested for exposure to chemicals, including a flame retardant banned only six years ago as a health risk.

“Chemical substances are everywhere,” the department wrote; “For the majority of chemicals, the data will serve as a starting point for comparison with data from future surveys to determine how and why these levels may be changing over time.”

The department in a notice said consultants will be hired to analyze blood and urine samples from Canadians nationwide to test for trace chemicals. So-called biomonitoring data were last collected in 2009, 2011 and 2013 under a Canadian Health Measures Survey conducted by Statistics Canada. Researchers last tested 5,800 people including children as young as 3.

New check-ups will track polybrominated flame retardants used to treat household furniture, carpets and other products. Regulators in 2014 banned another chemical, tris 2-chloroethyl phosphate, used in children’s pillows, toys and pajamas. The European Union cited the substance as carcinogenic.

“Biomonitoring provides an estimate of exposure to a chemical,” the health department wrote in a 2015 Third Report On Human Biomonitoring Of Environmental Chemicals In Canada. “However, a chemical’s presence alone will not necessarily result in adverse health effects. The risk a chemical substance poses is determined by evaluating its toxicity and the levels to which people may be exposed.”

StatsCan researchers earlier concluded 100 percent of Canadians test positive for blood lead levels, although in small concentrations, decades after regulators restricted the commercial use of lead. Most leaded gasoline was banned in 1990; lead content in paint has been heavily regulated since 1976.

Bans on lead in consumer products followed research in Canada and the U.S. dating from 1926 that proved links between exposure and numerous health problems in children including lower IQ, hyperactivity and reproductive damage.

Lead remains listed as a toxin under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Environment Canada in 2014 proposed first-ever regulation of lead used in auto wheel weights, estimating some 114 tonnes a year fall of tire rims and are pulverized into toxic dust. The department in 2013 also reviewed the environmental risk of lead shot used by hunters. Lead shot is already banned in national wildlife areas, and for hunting most migratory birds.

Biomonitoring will also examine Canadians’ exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls once commonly used in electrical transformers and other equipment. Canada outlawed the manufacture, sale and import of cancer-causing PCBs in 1977 under a United Nations Stockholm Convention On Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Other chemicals to be tested include acrylamide; arsenic; bisphenol A; benzene; cadmium; chlorophenols; fluorene; fluoride and mercury.

By Mark Bourrie

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