Chemical substances are a part of our every day lives at home, at work and at play. Some of these chemicals are considered to be hazardous or toxic and could cause harmful health affects to humans, other living organisms and the environment. Some of these harmful chemicals can be found in the products we buy, in food, in the air, in water and in land/soil.
Toxic substances can, by definition, be harmful to the environment or to the health of living organisms (including humans) or both. The impact of a toxic substance is a result of various factors including:
- nature and amount of the toxic substance;
- time and frequency of exposure to the toxic substance;
- sensitivity of the plant or animal (including humans); and
- route of exposure (examples include inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin).
In other words the chance of a harmful effect (the risk) is a factor of both the nature of the toxic substance and the type and length of exposure (and in some cases the dose or amount of chemical).
Hazardous and toxic chemical exposure may result in a range of adverse immediate and long term effects on living organisms including, but not limited to, burns to the skin, eye irritation, respiratory conditions, neurological damage, liver and kidney damage, cancer, cardiovascular damage, reproductive effects and developmental disabilities.
To limit our risk of adverse health effects and harmful effects to ecosystems, limiting our use of products containing toxic and harmful substances and limiting our exposure to toxic chemicals in our homes, workplace and our environment is important.
Environment Canada – Chemical Management Plan
Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in the Canada Health Measures Survey
Nova Scotia Health Protection and Promotion – Environmental Health
Collaborative on Health and Environment Toxicant and Disease Database
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – United States – information on the effect on public health of hazardous substances in the environment
United States Environmental Protection Agency - Pollution Prevention and Toxics - Chemicals in the Environment