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In 2006, the Government of Canada launched the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) to further enhance its role in protecting Canadians and their environment from exposure to harmful chemicals. The CMP also provides funding for research and monitoring. Research and monitoring of chemicals in humans and in the environment helps to increase our understanding of the possible exposures and effects that chemicals could have on Canadians and their environment.
A key element of the CMP is the monitoring of chemicals in both humans and in the environment. In general terms, monitoring is the measurement of chemicals in air, water, wildlife and humans. It involves the regular collection of physical, chemical and biological data using standard methods and protocols.
Human exposure to chemicals is an important area of focus for the CMP. Human biomonitoring is the measurement, in people, of a chemical, the by-products it makes after it has broken down, or the by-products that might result from interactions in the body. These measurements are usually taken in blood and urine samples and sometimes in other tissues and fluids such as hair, nails, and breast milk. The measurements indicate how much of a chemical is present in that person or how much chemical a person has been exposed to. The presence of a chemical in the body does not necessarily mean a harmful or adverse effect will result.
Monitoring of chemicals in the environment involves measuring the concentrations of chemicals in various media such as air, water, sediment, fish or birds.
Health Canada is also responsible for the assessment of risks to human health from exposure to food-borne chemical contaminants. Health Canada undertakes regular surveillance to monitor the levels of chemicals in foods and estimate the exposure of Canadians to these chemicals. Types of studies include targeted surveys of chemical contaminants in food, and Total Diet Studies that estimate the levels of chemicals to which Canadians in different age-gender groups are exposed through the food supply.
Human and environmental monitoring are essential tools to identify potential risks to human health and the environment. Monitoring programs provide essential information used to make sound and effective public health and environmental health policies and interventions, and help to measure the effectiveness of Government actions to limit or reduce potential risks to humans and/or the environment.
Monitoring data has a variety of uses, including:
Under the Chemicals Management Plan, the Government of Canada is undertaking a variety of monitoring programs, including:
The Government of Canada is conducting research to better understand the exposure and effects of a variety of chemicals that were identified as priorities under the CMP. This research involves the generation and dissemination of science-based information necessary to understand the risks chemicals may pose to both human health and the environment. It involves identifying the hazardous properties of a chemical, its fate in the environment, and how people and wildlife may be exposed and affected. The Government is also developing tools to improve detection of chemicals in people and the environment and to better screen for effects. This is being done by both Government scientists as well as academia, in partnership with industry.
For more information on monitoring and research under the Chemicals Management Plan, visit the Chemical Substances Web site.