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Toxic chemicals – people and the environment

We come into contact with thousands of chemicals every day (often without being aware). According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there are approximately 35,000 chemicals in use in Canada and an overwhelming majority of these chemicals have not been tested for toxicity. Often, there is little or or no information available about the environmental impacts of these products. These toxic chemicals – also known as toxins – can be found in many of the household products that we use regularly, such as cleaning or personal care products, and can be damaging to our health and the natural environment. Many cleaning products are convenient, low cost and easy to use, but we are now learning about the serious long-term human and environmental impacts from prolonged use and exposure.

Chemicals from the everyday products we use, affect us directly through the air we breathe and the food and drink we consume. Harmful chemicals can find their way into water, soil, and air during their manufacture, use or disposal. Once in the environment, these chemicals often take a very long time time to break down, some however do not break down at all.  These chemicals can travel for long distances in air and water, including ocean currents.

We always assumed that oceans and waterways were so large and vast that they would dilute the toxic chemicals and garbage that ended up there. However, the reality is very different. Many of these chemicals become more concentrated in living organisms, especially higher up the food chain in larger species such as salmon and whales. People are at risk by eating seafood that has a high concentration of toxins. A good example of this is the high levels (above acceptable) of mercury to be found in tuna.  

Moreover, whole ecosystems can be harmed when natural processes are disrupted by the presence of toxic chemicals.

The Good news

We can reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals and their impacts on our environment, by becoming better informed and making wise consumer choices. By using non-toxic products, we can reduce our impact on the health of our streams and oceans, and make our own homes healthier.

The first step is to a take a look at the chemicals under the sink. Also take a look at products you use in the laundry and the bathroom. Find out about some of the ingredients in these products and the harm the toxic chemicals can do to your families and the environment. Switch to other natural non-toxic products like Live for Tomorrow.

Remember, just because the label says it’s ‘environmentally friendly” or “biodegradable” doesn’t mean it really safe for the environment. First, be sure to look it the ingredient list to check that the product lives up to its Green credentials! When you are looking for products, check for a complete list of ingredients on the package, and that the product has been certified by an organization such as EcoLogo.