Pollution Probe is pleased to introduce its Primer on Toxic Substances. The management of toxic substances is a complex issue that must deal with many uncertainties, yet it is unquestionably important because it affects not only our own lives but also those of generations to come.
Our understanding of toxic substances and their effects on people and the environment continues to change as relevant research evolves. Even the experts do not always agree on the nature of the threats that these substances pose. The reality is that toxic substances not only surround us but are in us. They are part of our daily lives. The cellphone that you just put down to read this is treated with flame retardants. The energy-saving fluorescent light that you just turned on uses a bulb containing mercury. And the soda that you are sipping is in a can with a liner containing BPA.
The purpose of this primer is to fill the gaps in our understanding with information, which will enable us to participate more fully in discussions and activities aimed at minimizing the release and use of toxic substances. This primer is not intended to be the last word on the subject; rather, it serves as a first substantive step in making sense of the issues. The Government of Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Act inspired Pollution Probe to develop this primer and for this reason, some of the content is oriented towards issues that exist in Ontario. I believe, however, that the primer has value as a national informational resource. The primer summarizes the current understanding of toxic substances, how they are identified, their potential effects on human health and the environment, and possible sources of exposure. It surveys the roles played by government and industry, and calls attention to actions that we can all take to foster a safer, healthier future.