Media Release

Environmental Standard Setting and Children's Health report released today

May 25 2000

Toronto. Authors of a new study have raised serious concerns that Canadian children are not adequately protected from environmental pollutants. After a unique analysis of both the scientific research and the law in Canada and Ontario, the study warns that our regulatory system is not protecting children from pollutants, including pesticides and in consumer products. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), Environmental Health Committee today released the first report of their collaborative Children's Health Project. The comprehensive 400-page report, Environmental Standard Setting and Children's Health, includes an extensive review of the international scientific research addressing the links between environmental contamination and health effects in children. Other recent studies have raised the same concerns, but this study also thoroughly reviews how governments set the standards that are supposed to control children's exposure to toxins."The evidence cited in this report is persuasive," says Dr. Alan Abelsohn of the OCFP. "There is no question that the pollution we are putting into the environment is hurting children. They are not little adults. In general, they are more highly exposed and more sensitive than adults to environmental pollutants." Dr. Loren Vanderlinden, medical researcher for the OCFP Environmental Health Committee and one of the study co-authors, says, "poor children, aboriginal children with traditional diets, children who eat wild game or sport fish, and children in agricultural communities are at greatest risk. However, the study finds that all Canadian children are inadequately protected and are at risk from contaminants in the environment and consumer products." Among the many conclusions in the report is that our approach to standard setting is inadequate. Kathleen Cooper, CELA Researcher and a co-author of the study states that, "Governments apply 'risk assessment' which is a fancy term for insisting on absolute scientific proof of harm before setting protective standards. During this wait-and-see exercise, children are over-exposed as we wait for proof of harm. Instead of taking preventative regulatory action, we continue to permit what amounts to uncontrolled experiments on our children." "The current regulatory regime in Canada and Ontario is failing to protect our children," concludes Paul Muldoon, CELA Counsel and Executive Director. "Our analysis provides the foundation for a more precautionary approach that will prevent harm." - 30 -For more information:Paul Muldoon, Counsel; Kathleen Cooper, Co-author and Senior Researcher for  CELA, 416-960-2284Dr. Alan Abelsohn, Chair, OCFP Environmental Health CommitteeDr. Loren Vanderlinden, PhD, Co-author and Senior Researcher for OCFP