Chemicals Pollute Ontario’s Political Leaders
September 7, 2007
Premier Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton tested for toxic chemicals
Toronto, Ontario – Test results reveal that three Ontario political leaders are contaminated with pollutants found in the environment and in everyday products, according to a report released today by Environmental Defence. For the first time in Canada, Environmental Defence tested for bisphenol A (found in hard plastic bottles and tin can linings), a hormone disruptor that is under review by the federal government.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton volunteered to be tested as part of Environmental Defence’s national Toxic Nation campaign. The total number of pollutants found in each leader was very similar, with 44 pollutants in John Tory, 42 in Howard Hampton, and 41 in Dalton McGuinty.
“Harmful pollutants surround us every day in the air we breathe, food we eat and products we use. And, as our study shows, the pollutants contaminate us, too,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “Not even the Premier is immune.”
Expert laboratories in Quebec, British Columbia and Missouri were used to test the political leaders for 70 pollutants that fall into seven broad categories: phthalates; bisphenol A (BPA); 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); and, air pollutants called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Many of the pollutants discovered in the politicians’ bodies are associated with cancer, developmental problems, respiratory illnesses, damage to the nervous system and hormone disruption.
A total of 46 pollutants, of the 70 tested for, were detected in the three volunteers, including bisphenol A, 8 phthalates, 13 PCBs, 10 organochlorine pesticides, 6 PAHs, 4 PFCs, and 4 organophosphate insecticide metabolites.
“Finding out what toxics are in your body is a humbling experience. It brings home that the environment is a health issue. Keeping toxic substances out of our environment - and out of our bodies - is important to Ontarians. That’s why Ontario Liberals have been working hard for the past four years to protect our environment - and why our platform includes a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides, a tough new toxic reduction law and a carcinogen reduction strategy. Our plan puts Ontario at the forefront in North America on tackling this issue,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“This is a very stark lesson to everyone that no matter who you are, where you live or what you do toxins are in all of us. That is why the Progressive Conservative Plan for Ontario’s Future contains a made-in-Ontario strategy for businesses to phase out or replace high-risk chemicals. Our goal is to reduce pollutants and toxins in order to safeguard our air, water and land,” said Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.
“I want to commend Environmental Defence for educating us about the dangerous pollutants in our environment. I’m alarmed at how many pollutants are in my body, and it makes me concerned about the health of everyone else in Ontario. It is out of concern for the impact of toxic pollutants on working families that the NDP introduced Canada’s first Community Right-to-Know Bill. Ontario’s NDP will keep fighting for tough Community Right-to-Know laws so working families know what harmful toxins are in the air they breathe, the water they drink, their workplaces and backyards,” said Howard Hampton, Leader of Ontario’s NDP.
Of the three Ontario politicians, Dalton McGuinty had the highest concentration of organophosphate insecticide metabolites. Howard Hampton had the highest concentration of PAHs and phthalates. John Tory had the highest total concentrations for PCBs, PFCs and organochlorine pesticides. Dalton McGuinty and Howard Hampton had the highest concentration of bisphenol A.
All three of the Ontario political leaders were more polluted than the families who took part in Environmental Defence’s Polluted Children, Toxic Nation study. Based on an analysis of comparable chemical groups, the Ontario politicians all had higher total concentrations than the median for the family volunteers.
Compared to the four federal politicians tested earlier this year by Environmental Defence, the results are mixed. For three of the comparable compounds (PFCs, PCBs, and organochlorine pesticides), the range of total concentrations found in the Ontario politicians was lower than those found in the four federal politicians. For PAHs, the range of total concentrations was higher in the Ontario politicians than their federal counterparts.
In the lead up to Ontario’s election, Environmental Defence is calling on all political parties to commit to reducing pollution in the environment and everyday products through a Pollution and Cancer Prevention Act. The Act should:
· include any substance listed in the federal National Pollutant Release Inventory, and require companies currently releasing those chemicals to find safer solutions;
· ensure that products containing carcinogens, mutagens (materials that disrupt genetic codes) and reproductive toxins would be labeled; and,
· stipulate that funding be provided to support companies, workers, and citizens to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the use and production of toxins.
Toxic Nation at Queen’s Park: A Report on Pollution in Three Ontario Politicians is available for free on the Toxic Nation web site: www.toxicnation.ca. Environmental Defence’s previous studies examining the toxic contamination of Canadian adults, families and federal politicians are also available on the Toxic Nation web site.
About Environmental Defence: Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, safe food and thriving ecosystems. Nationwide. www.environmentaldefence.ca
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Chris Morley, Media Office, Office of the Premier, (416) 314-8975
Mike Van Soelen, Progressive Conservative Party, (416) 861-0020 ext. 760
Kaj Hasselriis, NDP, (416) 591-5455 ext. 271