Environmental health risks
Learn how Health Canada helps to reduce the risks of common environmental issues that affect human health.
On this page
Chemical substances can be found in the air, soil, food, water and products we use. Sometimes they can be harmful to our health and the environment. The Chemicals Management Plan addresses risks from chemical substances.
Working with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada conducts risk assessments and takes risk management actions when required. These actions can include the development of:
- new or amended regulations
- conditions for industry on acceptable uses of chemicals
- pollution prevention plans
Our risk assessment and risk management efforts are supported by research, health and environmental monitoring and public outreach.
Creating policies and setting standards
Health Canada develops guidelines to help reduce health risks and improve environmental quality in a variety of areas including:
- Air quality
- Indoor air quality
- Climate change
- Environmental assessments
- Contaminated sites
We work with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the provinces and territories to implement the Air Quality Management System. This system is designed to improve air quality, reduce air pollution and achieve better health for Canadians.
We also conduct research on air pollutants and the health benefits of cleaner air.
Indoor air quality
We assess the risks linked to indoor air pollution, which are detailed in the Residential Indoor Air Quality Guidelines.
These guidelines provide information on:
- sources of indoor air contaminants
- recommended exposure limits
- health effects
- recommendations to reduce your exposure to pollutants
We work in partnership with the provinces and territories, which are responsible for drinking water quality, to develop national guidelines for drinking water.
We also develop the scientific and technical basis for each guideline, in consultation with the provinces and territories.
We collaborate with researchers and decision-makers in Canada and around the world to:
- increase our knowledge about how climate change can affect human health
- develop guidance regarding the risks related to climate change
We participate in federal environmental assessments of proposed resource and infrastructure development projects, such as:
- hydroelectric plants
We provide expertise on possible health impacts, with a focus on the health of Indigenous peoples.
Through the environmental assessment program, we also assess the risks of being exposed to contaminants in air, water, noise, radiation and traditional Indigenous foods.
Contaminated sites are created as a result of human activity. They contain high levels of contaminants that can endanger human health.
As part of the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, we develop standards and guidelines so that federal departments can assess and reduce health risks. We also offer our expertise and provide training on human health risk assessments.
We work with our Canadian and international counterparts on standards for sources of noise exposure.
Collaborating with partners
Health Canada helps to protect your health by working with a wide range of environmental partners, including:
- Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and other federal departments
- provincial and territorial governments
- public health professionals
- international counterparts
To ensure our decisions are transparent, comprehensive and effective, we work with several stakeholder groups, including:
- the general public
- Indigenous groups
- health and environmental groups
Engaging and informing Canadians
Health Canada engages and informs Canadians on important issues. We provide information on potential environmental health risks, as well as guidance on how to reduce those risks. We do this through a variety of online tools addressing:
- water quality
- climate change
- chemical safety
- radiation in the environment
- indoor and outdoor air quality
- noise risks from outdoor sources and consumer products
We also maintain the Air Quality Health Index, which is a useful tool for you to check the health risks posed by pollution before you go outside and how to protect yourself.
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