Federal politicians contaminated with chemicals, group says

Blood tests show four federal politicians have dozens of chemical pollutants in their bodies, an environmental lobby group said Wednesday. The group wants Ottawa to tighten controls on dangerous chemicals, many found in everyday products.

Blood tests show four federal politicians have dozens of chemical pollutants in their bodies, an environmental lobby group said Wednesday.

Environmental Defence, whichwants the federal government to tighten controls on
chemicals, said tests found 61 pollutants among the four volunteers. They were tested for 103 chemicals, including some associated with cancer, developmental problems, respiratory illnesses andnervous system damage.

Most of the chemicals found in the MPs' blood come from items found in homes, such as non-stick cookware and flame retardants sprayed on furniture.

The tests were done on Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, Health Minister Tony Clement, NDPLeader Jack Layton andLiberal environment critic John Godfrey.

Godfrey topped the list with 55 pollutants, while Ambrose was at the bottom with49.

But overall, said Rick Smith, Environmental Defence's executive director, all four politicians were more contaminated than the ordinary citizens tested last year.

"I don't know why that is. Maybe it has to do with their strange lifestyle — eating out a lot and a high-stress existence," he said.

Smith said scientists areunableto say whether the levels of contaminants found in the politicians, from flame retardants to arsenic, are dangerous or not.

Dr. Albert Nantel, a toxicologist at the Quebec National Institute of Public Health, cautioned people not to read too much into the study.

"It gives an image of our level of exposure. It does not give at all any idea of the risk that it produces for the health of the population," he said.

The federal government is doing a new study which willexamine the impact of chemicals on Canadians, Clement said.

Ottawa will help encourage change: Clement

"It'snot only a question of chemicalA or chemical B, it's what occurs in our bodies when chemicalA and chemicalB and chemicalY and chemicalZ are all found in our bodies simultaneously," he said.

Clement saidthe government's strategy for dealing with toxic chemicals willhelp to encourage change bypushing industry to use flame retardants that are not carcinogenic.

However, Smith said that while the government's plan is a good first step, there are still too many loopholes that make it easy for industry to use chemicals that may or may not be dangerous to the public.

In the testing process, Environmental Defencesaid that laboratories in Quebec and British Columbia examined blood samples from each politician for pollutants in 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).
  • Flame retardants (PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers).

Among other proposals, the group wants Ottawa to tighten the process for managing chemicals, cut pollution in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin (where 45 per cent of Canada’s toxic air pollution is generated), andmake industry demonstrate that products are safe.