“Many Indigenous cultures emphasize the responsibility of being stewards of the Earth – to keep the Earth healthy so that future generations of all parts of Creation can thrive. Let us all work together, each doing our specific roles, to fulfill our collective responsibility to the future.”
Dr. Ojistoh Horn, family physician, CAPE board member, Mohawk/Haudenosaunee woman
“It most definitely is time to accelerate the process of transforming how we live, to bring it into balance with the web of life, to use the insights of science – and First Peoples’ empirical wisdom – to revivify the connection between humans and the natural world.”
Dr. Warren Bell, family physician, CAPE past founding president
Preventing toxic exposures is critical for human and environmental health.
What we know: Scientists recently concluded that chemical pollution has crossed a planetary health boundary — we have passed the limits of nature to support human activity. Chemical production from human activity has increased fiftyfold since 1950, and projections suggest a tripling from 2010 to 2050. About 99% of all synthetic chemicals are derived from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the petrochemical industry will be one of the main drivers of increases in fossil fuel demand in the next decade.
Only a small number of the 350,000 chemicals in use across the globe have been fully assessed for safety. The result of this widespread chemical pollution is that people in Canada are exposed to many toxic chemicals at home, school, work, in the food we eat and the products we use. The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) has measured over 270 chemicals in the blood and urine of people across the country.
Although likely an under-estimation, approximately 5.3% of deaths in Canada are attributable to pollution – linked in part to exposure to carcinogens and to particulate matter (PM2.5) in ambient air. According to Health Canada, more than 15,300 premature deaths in Canada each year are linked to air pollution. A Harvard study concluded that fossil fuel-related air pollution is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide.
Getting at the root of toxic exposures is key to CAPE’s work. Our Preventing Toxic Exposures Program has ecological health as its priority – meaning we work toward the overall improvement of planetary health as connected with human health. Our work contributes to the prevention of disease, death and preventable, toxic exposure-related conditions, while advocating for environmental justice. We use the relative power of the physician’s voice to get our messages across, whether to the general public, media or decision-makers.
We know that we need a systems approach that is distinct from focusing solely on the level of individual behaviour modifications or personal responsibility. CAPE and its Preventing Toxic Exposures Program advocates for greater societal action for health protection, illness prevention, equity and environmental justice.
What is CAPE doing about toxic substances?
Turning evidence into action: Nation-states are required by international human rights law to take active measures to prevent the exposure of individuals and communities to toxic substances. CAPE aims to hold Canada accountable to its responsibilities to the people who live, work, learn and play here. Our programs, campaigns and projects linked below are tackling some of the most timely and effective means for toxics prevention in Canada right now.
- Canadian Environmental Protection Act Reform
- Ending Environmental Racism for Environmental Justice
- Place-Based Power: Extraction and Health (Fracking & Tailings)
- Traffic Related Air Pollution
Together we are stronger. Led by physicians, we are working with communities, coalitions and decision-makers to create greater awareness about toxics reduction, environmental justice, and pollution solutions. We mobilize at the individual, community and institutional level to influence changes in law, regulation and policy.
Leveraging the physicians’ voice while using a planetary health lens, we are increasingly working to apply an intersectional framework, which understands an individual’s multiple identities as interacting and intersecting, and a decolonial approach to the work which identifies Canada as a settler state and centres Indigenous ways of knowing.
If you would like more information, please contact Jane McArthur, Toxics Program Director, at email@example.com.