January 8, 2007

Federal politicians found to have over 50 contaminants in their systems

Four federal politicians who volunteered to have their blood tested as part of Environmental Defence's Toxic Nation campaign were found to have an average of more than 50 harmful substances in their bodies.

Health Minister Tony Clement, NDP leader Jack Layton, Liberal environment critic John Godfrey and then-Environment Minister Rona Ambrose were tested for 103 different substances from seven broad groups, representing compounds that are widespread in the environment and commonly used in everyday products. Godfrey was found to have the highest total number of pollutants (55), followed by Clement and Layton, both with 54, and Ambrose, with 49.

Blood samples from the four volunteers were tested for PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls); PFCs, or perfluorinated chemicals, widely used in stain repellents and non-stick chemicals; organochlorine pesticides (such as DDT); organophosphate insecticide metabolites (such as the breakdown products of malathion); heavy metals (such as mercury and lead); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH); and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE, used as flame retardants).

A total of 61 pollutants, of the 103 tested for, were detected in the politicians, including 18 PBDE, 13 PCB, ten organochlorine pesticides, seven PAH, five PFCs, five metals and three organophosphate insecticide metabolites. The tests were carried out at expert laboratories in Quebec and British Columbia. Many of the pollutants discovered in the politicians' bodies are associated with cancer, developmental problems, respiratory illnesses, damage to the nervous system and hormone disruption.

"The need to measure what substances are accumulating inside Canadians is why the Chemical Management Plan announced December 8th includes a biomonitoring component," said Health Minister Clement. "This first-ever national survey will help determine future trends and allow comparisons to other countries, and will give scientists valuable data in making those determinations and proposing prevention or remedial measures where needed."

All of politicians tested were found to have higher levels of contaminants than the child and adult volunteers who participated in Environmental Defence's study on pollutants in families, released last June. The politicians had higher total concentrations in every comparable chemical group - stain repellents and non-stick chemicals, PCBs, PAHs, metals, and pesticides.

Among the four federal politicians, Clement had the highest total concentration of PCB, PFC and organochlorine pesticides. Layton had the highest total concentration of PBDE and PAH. Godfrey had the highest total concentration of organophosphate insecticide metabolites, while Ambrose had the highest level of arsenic.

In view of the forthcoming mandated five-year review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), Environmental Defence is calling on the federal government to:

*establish mandatory and tight timelines at each stage of the chemicals management process, from assessment to regulation;

*reduce pollution in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, where 45% of Canada's toxic air pollution is generated;

*place the onus on industry to demonstrate that products in the marketplace are safe;

*reduce toxic substances in consumer products; and

*make the National Pollutant Release Inventory mandatory and more comprehensive.

The report on the latest study, titled Toxic Nation on Parliament Hill: A Report on Pollution in Four Canadian Politicians, may be viewed on the Toxic Nation web site, www.toxicnation.ca. Environmental Defence's previous studies examining the toxic contamination of Canadian adults and families may also be viewed on the site.

More information is available from Jennifer Foulds at Environmental Defence, 416/323-9521 ext 232, Web site www.environmentaldefence.ca.

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