Dish of candy.CREDIT: Brian Gavriloff, Edmonton Journal
Montrealer Viviane Maraghi has always considered herself pretty good when it comes
to avoiding pollution.
She works with an environmental group and makes an effort to buy organic and
biological food whenever possible. Her son Aladin Bonin, 10, has been raised
on organic food ever since he was a baby.
So it came as even more of a shock for Maraghi to learn that not only did she
and her son test positive for dozens of toxic chemicals in their blood but,
in the case of several chemicals, Aladin's level was even higher than hers.
In fact, Maraghi and her son's results were the highest among a half dozen families
tested across in the country.
"I was staggered," said the Plateau Mont Royal resident.
The comments came after the group Environmental Defence released a new study
Thursday revealing that children as young as 10 are showing signs of contamination
by toxic chemicals. While some, like insecticides, are in the environment, others
are found in such innocuous everyday items as non-stick pans, computers and
mattresses or furniture treated with stain repellent chemicals.
Among the five families tested, on average parents tested positive for 32 of
the 68 chemicals tested for while children showed an average of 23 chemicals.
While the levels in many cases were low, some of the chemicals found can cause
reproductive disorders, harm the development of children or are suspected of
causing cancer or neurological problems.
"In total, 38 carcinogens, 23 hormone disruptors, 12 respiratory toxins,
38 reproductive/developmental toxins and 19 neurotoxins were detected in the
study volunteers," says the study.
Chemicals like DDT that have been banned in Canada for years tended to be higher
in the parents, but were also found in children born after the products were
removed from the shelves. As for the children, in many cases they tested higher
than their parents for chemicals associated with stain repellents, flame retardants,
heavy metals, organophosphates, insecticide metabolites and polycyclic aromatic
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, described the study
as groundbreaking, saying it reveals for the first time the extent to which
children are being affected by toxic pollutants.
"Pollution is now so bad in our country that the bodies of our
children have higher levels of pollution than their parents."
The tests were conducted to underscore the group's call for the Canadian government
to follow the lead of several other countries and ban some of the more dangerous
chemicals that are contaminating Canadian kids. If George W. Bush's government
can ban them, so can Canada, argued Smith. Otherwise, products containing the
chemicals risk being dumped in Canada.
Smith said his group plans to ask Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and the
environment critics from various parties to undergo testing as well to sensitize
them to the problem.
Asked about the study during question period, Ambrose said the issue is one
that she is taking seriously. Both she and Health Minister Tony Clement will
undergo the testing, she said.
Maraghi, who tested positive for 36 chemicals while her son tested positive
for 25, said neither has experienced any health problems that they believe could
be linked to the contamination. However, that's not going to stop her from making
significant changes in her household and from trying to determine where the
chemicals contaminating their bodies have been coming from.