Researchers studying the health risks of common chemicals say they contribute to thousands of deaths every year in Canada.

David Boyd and Stephen Genuis from the University of British Columbia have spent more than a year looking at the contribution that environmental chemicals play in sickness and death in Canada. The results of their work were published last week in the journal Environmental Research.

The researchers conclude that toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals and household cleaning products that are present in air pollution and in food and water are contributing to the deaths of 10,000 to 25,000 people every year.

The study reveals that Canadians are walking around with a host of chemical contaminants floating around their bodies and that these are contributing to 24,000 new cases of cancer and the birth of 2,500 low-birth-weight babies.

Talking to Canada.com Boyd said, "I was definitely surprised. Surprised and quite disturbed by it. I see it from another light. I look at all these deaths and I see that they are almost all preventable."

Last year the environmental campaigning group Environmental Defense organized for four goverment ministers to be tested for the presence of 100 different chemicals. The results showed just how polluted the human body has become in the modern age and undoubtedly woke a lot of people up to the dangers all around them. Boyd and Genuis's research however is the first in Canada to assess the association between this "body pollution" and ill-heath.

The researchers conducted their study using Canadian public health data and focused on sickness and death linked to environmental chemical exposures in four categories: respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and congenital defects.

The data was mainly drawn from previous scientific studies estimating the number of people who contract diseases linked to environmental pollution. Boyd and Genuis analysed the data using a system developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to come up with their figures.

Similar studies in Europe came up with equally worrying figures and have led to the European Parliament introducing new legislation in the form of REACH - Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals. REACH is aimed squarely at protecting human health and includes measure to increase the testing of chemicals, the replacement of older chemicals with new safer alternatives whenever they are available, and more strict registration processes for companies involved in the manufacture, sale, and use of chemicals.

Many, Including Boyd, hope that research such as this will help encourage Canadian politicians to adopt regulations similar to REACH.

Commenting on the study Boyd said, "People just aren't aware [of the problem]." He went on, "But we have to remember we're not just consumers, we're citizens, and we need to have the voice to change this."


 

 

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