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Toxic shock

Report on harmful chemicals in consumer products released

Research

By Janet Harron

A Memorial University geography professor has co-authored a new report detailing the failure of Canadian regulations to keep harmful flame-retardant chemicals out of Canadian homes and consumer products.

The report also recommends prohibiting new exposures to these chemicals.

Toxic by Design has released a report about the dangers of flame-retardant chemicals in consumer goods.
Toxic by Design has released a report about the dangers of flame-retardant chemicals in consumer goods.

Dr. Max Liboiron, assistant professor, Department of Geography, is a member of the Endocrine Disruptions Action Group (EDAction), a coalition of researchers concerned with the widespread presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in bodies, commodities, built environments, industrial emissions, ecologies, waters and atmospheres.

The group has released Toxic by Design, a report that investigates how failures in Canada’s regulatory approach to industrial chemicals, including a new regulation on a class of toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs that will come into effect on Dec. 23, 2016, have a far-reaching effect on the health of Canadians.

Sources of exposure

Current regulations allow harmful flame-retardant chemicals to circulate in the everyday consumer products and building materials in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. Common products like furniture and electronics have been allowed to become sources of long-lasting exposure to toxic chemicals. As a result, 92 per cent of Canadian women tested by Health Canada in 2010 had toxic flame-retardant chemicals in their breast milk, and all Canadians tested, including children, had some form of flame-retardant chemical in their bodies.

While fire safety is a serious concern, scientific research has shown that these chemicals do not significantly improve fire protection. Flame-retardant chemicals do present serious risks, however, particularly for children and during fetal development. Among other concerns, the health effects of exposure to these chemicals include enlarged livers, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cognitive debilities, reduced fertility in both men and women, and certain cancers.

First in a series

Toxic by Design calls on the Canadian government to address failures in governance that are impacting the health of Canadians, both those living today and future generations. It is the first in a series of reports on the impacts of endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals in Canada the group plans to release in the coming months.

What can the public do? EDAction’s Write2Know letter invites the public to get involved by asking the government to address these failures in Canada’s regulatory system.


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