Response to Recommendations
Science and Research
8. Public and private sectors
- fund research that expands understanding about the incidence of endocrine disruption in humans and wildlife;
- conduct programs to measure and establish the concentration of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in human tissues and fluids; and
- investigate endocrine-disrupting capability of chemical mixtures.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of scientific research to expand understanding of the links between toxic substances, environmental effects and human wellbeing. Canada recently launched the Toxic Substances Research Initiative (TSRI), which is being managed jointly by Environment Canada and Health Canada. TSRI will fund research on specific health and environmental issues, including research on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The renewed Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which is expected to be in force by the fall of 1999 is being amended to direct the Ministers of Environment and Health to conduct research and studies relating to hormone disrupting substances, methods related to their detection, methods to determine their actual and likely short or long-term effect on the environment and human health, and preventive, control and abatement measures to deal with those substances in order to protect the environment and human health. Canada is also working with international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and others, to address this emerging global issue.
Within Environment Canada, EDC research programs are focused on developing new tools to conduct more comprehensive environmental assessments, on applying these tools in field and laboratory studies to determine the extent to which the Canadian environment may be impacted and on developing remedial options and controls to protect the Canadian environment from the effects of EDCs. Multidisciplinary research studies are carried out in priority ecosystems in partnership with universities and industry.
Health Canada-sponsored research in the area of endocrine disruption covers epidemiology, screening of test substances for potential endocrine effects, hazard characterization, biomarker development and mechanistic studies to determine the biological relevance and regulatory value of selected endocrine endpoints. Studies in high fish consumers and non-consuming or low-consuming control populations and past breast milk surveys are establishing concentrations of persistent toxic chemicals in human tissues and fluids.
Canada is studying the endocrine-disrupting capabilities of chemical mixtures. Health Canada has recently published a special scientific journal supplement covering its research study of the effects on laboratory animals of mixtures of contaminants found in fish. Several of the endpoints selected are responsive to endocrine modulation. Environment Canada is assessing environmental sites and sectors which have been identified as having the highest potential for causing endocrine disruption, e.g., pulp and paper effluents, emerging issues such as intensive agriculture (pesticides and animal wastes), and urban effluents (especially sewage). This approach combined with laboratory validation will be the most effective to addressing the complex mixture and interactions of chemicals in the environment.
Environment Canada has also been involved in studies assessing endocrine disruption of orchard pesticides on songbirds and amphibians and have detected effects on reproduction, development and immune function. Ongoing studies have examined impacts of chlorinated organic contaminants on reproduction and development of snapping turtles and colonial waterbirds in the Great Lakes. A new study will assess contaminant body burdens and sexual development in mink.
Many of the substances (e.g., dioxins and furans, mercury, PCBs) that are being implicated as endocrine disrupters have other adverse effects. Environment Canada and the MOE have addressed many of them through their policies and programs dealing with persistent toxic substances, pollution abatement and prevention. For example, priority toxic substances are being dealt with under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the new Canada Wide Standards process. Many suspect industrial chemicals are also being addressed through Ontario's standards setting process and its Municipal and Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA).