Quirks & Quarks

How 'forever chemicals' have come to contaminate even the most remote parts of Canada

Toxic PFAS chemicals travel the world by water and air from contaminated locations, but they can concentrate in the north.
Lucy Grey (left), with her nephew and son, fishing for Arctic char in Qinguak, Nunavik in northern Quebec. PFAS "forever chemicals" bioaccumulate or become more concentrated higher in the food chain. Because of their reliance on marine mammals, and the tendency of some PFAS chemicals to migrate into northern ecosystems, Inuit may be particularly exposed to them. (Victoria Grey )

Originally published on October 24, 2020.

In the second part of our series on the risks of PFAS "forever chemicals," we look at how these durable, ubiquitous and often subtly toxic substances have spread over most of Canada and the globe.

A range of PFAS chemicals have been found at high levels in some hotspots in southern Canada. But they've also migrated throughout our environment into natural landscapes, the Great Lakes and perhaps most worryingly — they're being found at concerning levels in people in Canada's North.

In part two of this series we hear from: 

  • Shane De Solla, wildlife toxicologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Amila de Silva, an environmental chemist at Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Lucy Grey, research advisor for the Kativik Regional Government in Nunavik
  • Mélanie Lemire, an environmental epidemiologist at Laval University 

In part one of the series, we introduced you to the potential health effects associated with PFAS chemicals.

In part three, we'll bring you the final instalment of this series when we look at how we figure out our drinking water guidelines and the regulations that scientists say need to change.

Produced by Sonya Buyting. Written by Jim Lebans.