The Toxic Truth: What you can do to avoid chemicals
It was a wake-up call.
When I was tested recently by lobby group Environmental Defence for 69 toxins -- from pesticides to dangerous metals -- it turned out I have 47 of them.
We don't know for sure if these trace amounts will cause health problems for me. Scientists say that it may be the very young or the elderly who are at risk -- but with the research still ongoing, it's too early to say.
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But there are simple ways you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
And cleaning house is a good start -- because one of the ways people get exposed to chemicals is simple household dust.
"Dust, we're learning, is one of the routes by which we're exposed to chemicals," said SFU researcher Scott Venners.
Bisphenol A, which was banned in baby bottles because of fears it could impact a baby's development, is still found in a lot of plastic containers and food cans.
It's likely to stay in the packaging -- but if you microwave the food while it's still inside the plastic, chemicals can migrate to the food.
That means when you eat that food, you're eating the chemicals with it, said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence, adding it's better to microwave food in a ceramic container.
Also, don't put plastics in the dishwasher for the same reason. Avoid plastic bottles marked with '7' as those may contain bisphenol A, he said.
And avoid non-stick pans if you want to stay away from some suspected cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals, he said.
When CTV News talked to Lindsay Coulter of the Suzuki Foundation, we found out that she's so tired of the long lists of ingredients in shampoos that she makes her own beauty products.
With a simple recipe of one-quarter cup peppermint castile soap, three-quarters cup distilled water, two teaspoons jojoba oil, and half a teaspoon salt, she can make a shampoo she says works great.
"There are no extra preservatives, no dyes, no fragrances that are petroleum-based," said Coulter.
The Canadian government is taking this seriously as well -- through the Canadian Health Measures Survey, it's taking samples from 5,000 Canadians to test their contamination levels.
It's a study that could play a big role in changing laws around what's polluting Canadians.
A similar study in the U.S. gave the first evidence that Americans had too much lead in their blood. It pushed the government to phase out the use of lead in gasoline.
In Canada, we could see a ban phthalates in cosmetics and toys like one that exists in Europe. NDP MP Nathan Cullen's private member's bill banning some of these chemicals is now before the Senate.
Meanwhile the government has also put together a list of 200 chemicals and are putting the onus on industry to prove that they are safe. If they can't, the government is going to start regulating them, just like it did with bisphenol A.
Freeman says we need to do more.
"We haven't pushed our governments hard enough to get rid of these chemicals," he said. "They're no-brainers...we need to phase these chemicals out of use and get them out of our bodies and out of our environment."
But Marion Axmith of the Vinyl Council of Canada said that private members bills like Cullen's are putting politics over scientific process.
"We need sound science and risk assessment, not politics," said Axmith.
One of the phthalates that might be banned by the legislation includes a plasticizer used in medical tubing that stops the tube from kinking during a blood transfusion, she said.
Medical staff know not to use this product with very young children, she said, but to ban it outright would take an important tool away from them.
I'm waiting for the results of the research. But for now, I'm making some changes in my life to lessen my toxic load.