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About Environmental Defence

In 2006, Environmental Defence tested a handful of families from across Canada. This included seven children aged 10-15 years, as well as five parents and one grandparent. The report, entitled “Polluted Children, Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families”, was the first study of its kind to conduct a widespread test of Canadians for a variety of toxic compounds that could be present in their bodies. It revealed that every person tested had some number of toxic chemicals in their body. In some cases, children had a higher number of chemicals than their parents. Sixty-eight chemicals were tested for, of which 46 were detected.


Detected chemicals included flame retardants (PBDEs), mercury, lead, DDT, and PCBs. According to Environmental Defence, of the 46 chemicals detected: “38 are cancer-causing substances, 8 are chemicals that can harm reproduction and the development of children, 19 are chemicals that can harm the nervous system, 23 are chemicals that can disrupt the hormone system, and 12 are chemicals associated with respiratory illnesses”. On average, 32 chemicals were found in each parent, and 23 in each child.


While children had fewer banned chemicals in their bodies than their parents, there were some cases where children were more polluted than their parents by chemicals still in use, such as stain repellents, flame retardants, and heavy metals. Perhaps most significantly, the study indicates that Canadians are contaminated regardless of age, occupation, where they go to school, and where they live.


While the findings are ominous, they also indicate that, when the government has stepped in to ban certain chemicals, their prevalence in humans will decrease. Based on the findings of the report, Environmental Defence has called on the federal government to:

  • establish timelines for the elimination of toxic chemicals, starting with some of the most harmful: 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.



Environmental Defence. “Family Group Results”. 
Environmental Defence. “Toxic Kids”. June 1 2006.

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