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Pollutants Contaminate The Blood Of Federal Politicians

By Roy Whyte
January 04 2007;  Vivelecanada

Harmful pollutants have been found in the bodies of four federal politicians who volunteered to have their blood tested as part of Environmental Defence's Toxic Nation campaign.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, Health Minister Tony Clement, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Environment Critic John Godfrey were tested for 103 different pollutants.

The report, Toxic Nation on Parliament Hill: A Report on Pollution in Four Canadian Politicians, reveals that John Godfrey had the highest total number of pollutants found at 55, followed by Health Minister Tony Clement and Jack Layton at 54 and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose at 49. The politicians were tested for a broad range of pollutants that are widespread in the environment and commonly used in everyday products.

"Our tests show that pollution affects everyone. From Parliament Hill to kids in Vancouver and Saint John, harmful pollutants are contaminating the bodies of Canadians no matter where they live, how old they are or where they work, play or go to school," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.

Expert laboratories in Quebec and British Columbia tested the blood samples from each politician for pollutants that fall under seven broad groups: PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls); stain repellents and non-stick chemicals (known as PFCs, or perfluorinated chemicals); organochlorine pesticides (such as DDT); organophosphate insecticide metabolites (such as the breakdown products of malathion); heavy metals (such as mercury and lead); air pollutants called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons); and flame retardants (PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers). 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.

A total of 61 pollutants, of the 103 tested for, were detected in the four volunteers, including 18 PBDEs, 13 PCBs, 10 organochlorine pesticides, seven PAHs, five PFCs, five metals and three organophosphate insecticide metabolites.

"The need to measure what substances are accumulating inside Canadians is why the Chemical Management Plan announced December 8th includes a Biomonitoring component," said Tony Clement, Minister of Health. "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."

"A growing awareness of the impacts toxic chemicals are having on families and children confirms for us that our government is moving in the right direction with groundbreaking action against harmful pollutants," said Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment. "By delivering an aggressive, world-leading approach to chemicals management, we are ensuring the health of our environment and future generations."

"No one is immune from picking up dangerous chemicals, no matter how healthy a lifestyle you lead," said Liberal Environment Critic John Godfrey. "These results underline the need for a greater effort to get harmful substances out of the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we use and dispose of."

"Like many, I've been concerned about these toxics for decades and worried about them a lot," said NDP Leader Jack Layton. "I've worked for years to have pesticides and other toxics banned or reduced. In light of these recent results, our party will redouble its efforts because this toxic shocker reinforces our commitment to be tough on companies that pollute and governments that don't act. And clearly, this commitment should go beyond party lines."

All four of the politicians tested were more polluted than both 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, Health Minister Tony Clement had the highest total concentration of PCBs, non-stick chemicals (PFCs) and organochlorine pesticides. NDP Leader Jack Layton had the highest total concentration of flame retardants (PBDEs) and PAHs. Liberal Environment Critic John Godfrey had the highest total concentration of organophosphate insecticide metabolites, and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose had the highest level of arsenic.

With the mandated five-year review of Canada's national pollution law -the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) - Environmental Defence calls 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 per cent 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.

Toxic Nation on Parliament Hill: A Report on Pollution in Four Canadian Politicians is available for free on the Toxic Nation web site: www.toxicnation.ca. Environmental Defence's previous studies examining the toxic contamination of Canadian adults and families are also available for free on the Toxic Nation web site.

About Environmental Defence: Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, safe food and thriving ecosystems. Nationwide. www.environmentaldefence.ca