Canada's Toxic Kids: Pollutants Contaminate Children's Bodies
First-ever study reveals children have higher levels of some chemicals than their parents

Source: Environmental Defense

Ottawa , Ontario - Harmful toxic pollutants have been found in the bodies of every child and parent tested in a national study, released today by Environmental Defence. The first Canadian study of its kind found that children have higher levels of some chemicals than their parents. Family volunteers were tested in British Columbia , Ontario , Quebec and New Brunswick .

The groundbreaking report, Polluted Children , Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families , reveals that toxic chemicals, such as stain repellants, flame retardants, mercury, lead, DDT and PCBs, are polluting Canadian children and their parents. In several cases, children in the study were more contaminated than their parents by chemicals that are still in use, including stain repellants (known as perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs), brominated flame retardants (PBDEs), heavy metals, organophosphate insecticide metabolites, and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Many of the chemicals discovered in the children's bodies are associated with cancer, developmental problems, respiratory illnesses, damage to the nervous system and hormone disruption.

The report is the first in Canada to test children and their parents for a broad range of toxic chemicals that are widespread in the environment and commonly used in everyday products. It shows that Canadian families are contaminated regardless of where they work, play or go to school, how old they are or where they live.

"Our children are being poisoned every day by toxic chemicals that surround them at home, school and play," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. "The fact that children in our study have higher levels than their parents of a number of chemicals is an indictment of federal inaction and shows the failure of federal environmental law."

Polluted Children, Toxic Nation tested the blood and urine of 13 family members (seven children, six adults). Expert laboratories in Quebec and British Columbia tested the children and their parents for 68 individual chemicals on behalf of Environmental Defence. The laboratories found a total of 46 of the 68 chemicals tested (68 per cent), including 38 chemicals that can cause reproductive disorders and harm the development of children, 38 suspected cancer-causing chemicals, 23 chemicals that can disrupt the hormone system, 19 neurotoxins, and 12 chemicals associated with respiratory illnesses. On average, 32 chemicals were found in the parents and 23 were found in the children.

"When I saw how many different chemicals are in my body, I was astounded. But, when I saw the toxic chemicals in my son's body, I was angry. Our children deserve better protection," said Viviane Maraghi, mother and Toxic Nation volunteer from Montreal . The study found 36 chemicals in Viviane, the highest total number among the volunteers. Her 10-year-old son, Aladin Bonin, had 25 chemicals in his body. "It's not fair that children should be so polluted with these chemicals," said Aladin. "I hope that adults do something now to fix the problem."

"I was very alarmed when I saw the long list of chemicals found in my daughter's body. As a mother, it's inconceivable that my daughter is more polluted by some chemicals than I am," said Barri Cohen, mother and Toxic Nation volunteer from Toronto . The study found 31 chemicals in Barri Cohen and 24 in her 10-year-old daughter Ada Dowler-Cohen.

The levels of some of the older chemicals detected in the children suggest that effective regulation to stop the production and use of the most harmful toxic substances can reduce the pollution in people over time. The parents in the study had higher levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and DDT, which were banned in Canada before their children were born; but, the study still found traces of these banned chemicals in all of the children.

 "Three generations of my family were tested. And all of us are contaminated. What's most shocking is my granddaughter, who has chemicals in her body that were banned before she was even born," said Wilson Plain Sr. an elder from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia , Ontario . "Canadians have the right not to be polluted by these chemicals." The study found 32 chemicals in Wilson Plain Sr., 36 chemicals in his son, Wilson Jr., and 20 chemicals in his 14-year-old granddaughter, Jessie.

With the mandated five-year review of Canada 's national pollution law - the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) - Environmental Defence calls on the federal government to:

  • establish timelines for the elimination of toxic chemicals, starting with some of the most harmful ones: brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs);
  • make industry accountable for its chemicals;
  • regulate chemicals in consumer products; and,
  • reduce pollution in the Great Lakes basin.

Parents, children and individual Canadians can also act to reduce their exposure to harmful toxic chemicals by taking the Chemical Reduction Pledge on the Toxic Nation web site - www.toxicnation.ca . Canadians can also log on to www.toxicnation.ca to sign a petition calling on the federal Environment Minister to better regulate toxic chemicals.

"Clearly, the federal government must act now to stop the insidious contamination of our children. As our study shows, what we choose to do today will continue to affect generations to come," said Dr. Smith.

Polluted Children, Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families, including test results of the individual children and their parents from across Canada , is available for free on the Toxic Nation web site: www.toxicnation.ca . Environmental Defence's previous study examining the toxic contamination of Canadian adults is also available for free on the Toxic Nation web site.

About Environmental Defence: Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, safe food and thriving ecosystems. Nationwide. www.environmentaldefence.ca

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For more information, or to arrange interviews with Toxic Nation family volunteers, please contact:

Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)