Ontario’s top three politicians are awash with pollutants, from PCBs to pesticides, stain repellents to flame retardants.
And it seems the party leaders are more polluted than the average Canadian, according to a report released yesterday by a Toronto-based watchdog group.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, NDP Leader Howard Hampton and Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory offered up blood and urine samples to Environmental Defence to test for 70 different chemicals, including organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, and, for the first time, bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in plastics.
The tests revealed the politicians carried a total of 46 pollutants in their bodies, many of which have been linked to cancer, respiratory illness and hormonal problems. All three leaders had higher concentrations of chemicals than five families tested by Environmental Defence last year.
Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, said the tests are part of an effort to push for more regulation of toxic chemicals in Canada, especially ones with known health effects, such as bisphenol A. Currently under review by the federal government, bisphenol A is a known hormone disrupter and is widely found in plastic water bottles and the lining of tin cans.
“This is a known hormone-disrupting chemical and it was found in all three of these men,” he said. “What the heck is our government doing allowing known hormone disrupters to accumulate in our bodies? It’s just not acceptable.”
Critics say Canada is behind other countries in their efforts to understand how many chemicals are contaminating its citizens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, for example, tests 4,000 Americans every two years for a host of pollutants, said University of Toronto professor Miriam Diamond. Health Canada launched its first biomonitoring program this year and plans to test 5,000 citizens.
Scientists do not yet know the exact effects trace levels of many chemicals could have on human health, but Diamond said subtle effects are now being seen for a number of pollutants.
Smith said it was ironic that politicians, who have the power to legislate change, are more affected by pollutants than the average Canadian. Perhaps, he said, it’s their lifestyle – constant travel, eating a lot of prepared food, wearing cosmetics for TV cameras – that increases their levels of pollutants.