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Many Kids Show Traces Of Toxins

With more hot and hazy weather upon us the toxins in the air are a big concern, but according to a recent study, you should also be very concerned about the harmful cocktail of chemicals coursing through your child’s body.

Industrial chemicals are having an awful effect on our environment and climate and they’re also poisoning Canadian families.

The Toronto-based Environmental Defence released the results of a national research project studying the number of chemicals found in Canadians’ bodies and the results are disturbing.

The group claims we’re all polluted and it found traces of chemicals that have been banned for more than three decades in children’s bloodstreams.

Researchers tested 13 individuals from five families – seven adults and six children – from across the country. The families live in Vancouver, Toronto, Sarnia, Montreal and Quispamsis, N.B.

On average, experts found 23 known or suspected toxins, including carcinogens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins, in the blood and urine of the seven children.

An average of 32 chemicals were identified in the adults and they had higher concentrations of some products that are no longer used, including DDT and PCBs.

Study volunteer Vivian Maraghi was stunned to learn she had 36 different industrial chemicals in her body.

“But when I saw the toxic chemicals in my son’s body, I was angry,” she said. “Our children deserve better protection.”

Ten-year-old study participant Ada Dowler-Cohen was also upset by the results.

“I am 10-years-old and I am polluted and sadly there is nothing I can do to stop it,” she said.

The kids had higher levels of newer chemicals, including brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used in stain repellants and non-stick coatings.

“I can guarantee you, brominated flame retardants are painted on the chairs you are sitting on,” Dr. Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence, explained. “I regret to tell you it’s in your BlackBerry, in your computer keyboards.”

While you’d assume that adults have accumulated more chemicals in their bodies because they’ve been around longer, researchers say the results of this study prove that’s not always the case.

  • Environmental Defence says this report highlights the fact that Canada’s weak and ineffective regulation on toxic chemicals needs a serious overhaul and it wants the government to establish guidelines to force the chemical industry to prove that its products are safe before the items are put on the market.
  • Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has agreed to be tested for toxins, along with Health Minister Tony Clement. Health Canada is also planning a national study for next year that will test 5,000 people for toxic chemicals.

To read the full results of the study, click here.

Where Do Toxic Chemicals Come From?

Electrical Power Generation

Coal-fired power plants emit mercury, dioxins and furans, and components of smog such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide; emissions of carbon dioxide also contribute to climate change.

Chemicals Manufacturing

Chemicals manufacturing refers to the production of a wide range of substances including petrochemicals, industrial gases, synthetic dyes and pigments, resin, synthetic rubber, artificial and synthetic fibres, filaments, pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals, paint, coating, adhesives, soaps, cleaning compounds, and personal care products. Common pollutants emitted from chemicals manufacturing facilities include sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, VOCs, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and dioxins.

Iron and Steel Manufacturing

Steel mills produce iron from iron ore, coke and fluxing agents, which are then converted into refined steel; in the process of producing steel, facilities emit air pollutants such as hydrochloric acid, manganese compounds, phenol, naphthalene and benzene, as well as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Metal Casting

Foundries and die casting facilities produce a range of goods including automotive parts, jewelry and plumbing fixtures by pouring molten metal into molds; in the process of producing these goods, facilities emit organic air pollutants and metals.


Petroleum refineries process crude oil into fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel, non-fuel products like lubricating oils and asphalt, and raw materials (i.e. benzene, toluene, xylene) for the chemical industry. In the process of refining crude oil into these various products, petroleum refineries emit toxics like particular matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and VOCs (benzene, toluene, and xylene).

Pulp and Paper

Paper mills process wood and wood fibre for use in paper products; this process involves digesting or cooking down wood material into a pulp and separating fibres from impurities, the pulp is then bleached, dewatered, pressed and rolled; emissions from these facilities include nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, dioxins and greenhouse gases.


The agricultural sector uses an array of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides to kill unwanted insects, plants and animals. Pesticides and other types of harmful chemicals used in agriculture contaminate the food we eat, as well as air, water and soil when they run-off from crops and enter the wider environment.

Everyday Products

Canadians are also exposed to toxic chemicals everyday through commonly used products in the home, such as perfumes, shampoos, air fresheners, cleaning products, furniture and appliances, frying pans and food and beverage containers.

Your Home

Particular activities, such as home renovations, are also a source of chemical exposure. Many paints, adhesives and carpets release high levels of volatile organic compounds; demolition can expose asbestos; and stripping old paint (pre-1960) can release lead into your household air.

To learn how to reduce exposure to chemicals in your home, click here.


Even our food can contain chemicals that are harmful to human health, either through pesticide sprays on fruits and vegetables, or by simply being grown in and around contaminated soil, air and water. In addition to pollutants found on fresh produce, 94 to 99 per cent of people’s exposure to persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs and pesticides, comes from diet, particularly the consumption of fish, fatty meats and dairy products.

How Do Toxic Chemicals Get Into Our Bodies?

When toxic chemicals are released, either through industrial or agricultural processes or consumer products, they make their way into our bodies through:

  • the lungs (inhalation),
  • skin (dermal absorption), and/or
  • mouth (ingestion)-these are known as routes of exposure.

What Chemicals Get Into Our Bodies?

Hormone disrupting chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and phthalates, can mimic, block or interfere with hormones such as estrogen, androgen and the thyroid, resulting in reproductive defects, reduced fertility, and neurological, behavioural and developmental problems.

Carcinogenic chemicals can cause or aggravate cancer, which is the growth of abnormal cells that spread throughout the body, in some cases leading to death.

Neurotoxic chemicals fall into three main groups, heavy metals and metal compounds, solvents and other simple organic compounds, and pesticides. These chemicals cause damage to the brain and can lead to developmental and behavioural disabilities, particularly in children because their brains are still developing.

Respiratory toxins affect the breathing system. When these toxins are inhaled they affect the nasal passages, pharynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. These toxins cause both acute and chronic illnesses such as bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, cancer, and general breathing problems. As irritants, respiratory toxins can also increase the severity and incidence of respiratory infections and can aggravate asthma.

Reproductive toxins can affect reproductive ability and sexual function. Examples of reproductive disorders that may be caused by these toxins include endometriosis, failure to ovulate normally, tubal pregnancies, miscarriages and still births (for women), and low sperm count and motility, undescended testes, hypospadius and testicular cancer (in men). Developmental toxins can negatively impact normal childhood development and growth, in both physical and mental terms.

Many chemicals can also damage the kidney, liver and other organs, as well as impair the immune system.

Courtesy of Environmental Defence