Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Environmental Contaminants

Environmental Contaminants

Environmental Contaminants

Environmental contaminants are increasingly linked to the development of chronic disease and disabilities. Some environmental contaminants—particularly tobacco, lead, mercury, PCBs and pesticides—are recognized risk factors for lung cancer, ADHD, heart disease and dementia. The data are sparser for other contaminants, such as flame retardants and bisphenol A, but new human and toxicologic studies are implicating these and other chemicals as risk factors for common diseases of industrialized societies.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is resistant to flames and corrosion and was used during the past century as an insulator, is a leading cause of deaths from mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Biomarkers of exposure, which enhance our ability to quantify an individual’s “internal dose” of a contaminant, are revolutionizing the study of toxins in the same way genetic tests are revolutionizing the study of heritability

Lead, an element found naturally in the earth’s crust, is released into the environment by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, mining and manufacturing.