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Pollution causes thousands of deaths October 7, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Health.
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pollutionUBC co-author says not enough being done to reduce health hazards

Glenda Luymes, The Province

Published: Sunday, October 07, 2007

David Boyd could be excused for being a little paranoid.

The University of B.C. Trudeau scholar has laboured for more than a year to determine just how many Canadians die each year from pollution.

The disturbing tabulation finally complete, his results were published in an online journal last week and show that as many as 25,000 deaths, 24,000 new cases of cancer and the birth of 2,500 low-birth-weight babies can be linked to environmental hazards each year.

By living a “normal” life, many Canadians are being exposed to hundreds of quiet, chemical killers.

“I was definitely surprised,” Boyd said Friday. “Surprised and quite disturbed by it.”

Disturbed, but not paranoid.

“I see it from another light. I look at all these deaths and I see that they are almost all preventable. We just need to educate people,” he said.

Using Canadian public health data, Boyd and University of Alberta co-author Stephen Genuis focused on the environmental burden of disease — death and illness caused by exposure to environmental hazards — in four categories, including respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and congenital afflictions.

By combining and tabulating the results of previous scientific studies estimating the number of people who contract diseases linked to pollution, Boyd and Genuis established their total numbers based on a method designed by the World Health Organization.

Although a first for Canada, many European countries have done similar studies, subsequently taking action to tighten controls on the chemical industry.

In Sweden, legislation enforces the “substitution principle,” meaning that if a safer chemical is available for use in a product, there is a legal obligation to use it.

Boyd said Canada is “lagging behind” by putting the needs of industry before the health of Canadians. The expert has identified more than 50 different chemical ingredients present in pesticides alone that are banned in other countries, including 2,4-D, which is used in lawn and garden products, and Atrazine, a pesticide used on corn. Canada also allows many dangerous plastic softeners and fragrances called phthalates that are banned in Europe.

“People just aren’t aware,” said Boyd. “But we have to remember we’re not just consumers, we’re citizens, and we need to have the voice to change this.”

gluymes@png.canwest.com

HOW THEY GET AT US

The four major sources of our contact with toxic chemicals:

1. AIR: The air we breathe contains the biggest threat, from outdoor pollutants such as smog and combustion byproducts to indoor pollutants called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, found in paint, carpet and plywood, which become dangerous while breaking down into a fine dust that is inhaled. VOCs are identifiable by their distinctive smell, as in a freshly painted room or in wet nail polish.

2. FOOD: Apart from the chemicals in processed food, fruits and vegetables can also contain pesticide residue and traces of heavy metals.

3. WATER: Water quality varies between communities, but some B.C. tests have revealed miniscule amounts of lead and arsenic.

4. SKIN: From insect repellent to shampoos and cosmetics, the products we put on our skin remain with us.

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