Monitoring and surveillance activities under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan

Monitoring and Surveillance Activities under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan


On December 8, 2006 the Government of Canada launched the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). The Plan acts to safeguard human health and the environment of Canadians and includes a number of proactive measures to ensure that chemical substances are managed properly.

A key element of the Chemicals Management Plan is the monitoring and surveillance of levels of harmful chemicals in Canadians and their environment. Monitoring and surveillance are essential to identify and track exposure to hazards in the environment and associated health implications. Monitoring and surveillance programs provide the basis for making sound and effective public health and environmental health policies and interventions, as well as measuring the efficacy of control measures.

In support of the Chemicals Management Plan, monitoring and surveillance initiatives were established to support Health Canada and Environment Canada scientists, in collaboration with external partners and researchers, to advance our knowledge. This initiative has allowed the Government of Canada to increase its commitment to a number of existing monitoring initiatives, as well as to support new efforts.

Environmental monitoring

Monitoring and surveillance involves the regular collection of physical, chemical and biological data using standard methods and protocols to detect and characterize environmental change. Environment Canada's national CMP Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance Program focuses on monitoring of chemicals in multiple environmental media: air, water, sediment, non-human biota (fish and wildlife); as well as source monitoring (wastewater treatment plant effluents and sludge; landfill leachate and biogas). This program builds on Canada's existing environmental monitoring programs and complements the human health biomonitoring conducted by Health Canada. Together these programs generate science-based information essential to identifying risks and informing risk assessment and risk management, and support informed decision-making. See also Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance in Support of the Chemicals Management Plan.

Environmental monitoring data has a variety of uses including:

  • Quantifying exposure levels and generating science-based information necessary to identify risks and inform risk management
  • Understanding environmental fate and behaviour of chemicals
  • Evaluating performance of control actions

Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance Initiatives include:

  • National monitoring program for measuring ambient environmental concentrations of CMP priority substances in: wildlife, fish, air, sediment and water.
  • As many of the emerging contaminants of concern are found in products which routinely end up in landfill or wastewater at end-of-life, under the CMP, a national monitoring program is being set up to characterize trends of priority compounds in wastewater, and assess the effectiveness of treatment systems at removing these compounds from final effluent and treated biosolids.
  • A comprehensive cross-country landfill monitoring program will be piloted in order to provide information on the current state of release to the Canadian environment of priority compounds from landfill leachate, landfill gas and incineration.

Human Biomonitoring

Human exposure to chemicals is an important area of focus for the Government. Human biomonitoring is the measurement of a chemical and its by-products in people. These measurements are usually taken in blood and urine 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.

Human biomonitoring data has a variety of uses including:

  • Establishing baseline levels of chemicals in Canadians and detecting trends in exposure over time and by geographical region;
  • Identifying populations that might have higher levels of specific substances, and who may be at higher risk of adverse health effects;
  • Examining the relationship between the amount of exposure (i.e. the dose) and health effects;
  • Identifying substances that were not previously thought to be a concern or to accumulate in people;
  • Setting priorities and taking action to protect the public's health;
  • Assessing the effectiveness of public health and environmental actions intended to reduce exposures and health risks of Canadians to specific chemicals;
  • Helping to focus future research efforts on the links between exposure and health.

Monitoring and Surveillance Initiatives

Health Canada's monitoring and surveillance initiatives are categorized in four broad themes:

  • National Biomonitoring Initiatives
    • Initiatives in this area conduct biomonitoring on a national scale.
      • Canadian Health Measures Survey
      • Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals
      • Northern Contaminants Program (multi-partner, multi-year initiatives)
      • First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative (consultation phase)
  • Targeted Population Biomonitoring Initiatives
    • Initiatives in this area conduct biomonitoring or exposure studies targeting sub-populations of interest.
      • A pilot study to assess the feasibility of measuring chronic exposure to lead among Canadians
      • Canadian study of the impact of residential sources of lead on blood lead levels of young children
      • Biomonitoring for environmental lead exposure in children from pre-1970s housing in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
      • The P4 study: Plastics and personal care product use in pregnancy
      • Biological monitoring of exposure to inorganic arsenic in a population in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region using drinking water from private wells
      • Biomonitoring of arsenic species in rural Nova Scotia communities
      • Assessment of long-term indoor residential pollution exposures among Canadian children
      • Importance of exposure to acrylamide in a potentially vulnerable population through consumption of acrylamide rich food
  • Biomonitoring Supportive Research
    • Initiatives in this area conduct research to advance biomonitoring scientific methods and techniques and to develop tools to better understand, interpret, and communicate biomonitoring results.
      • Development of biomonitoring equivalents and use of physiologically based pharmacokinetic models for interpreting Canadian biomonitoring data
      • Toxicokinetic modelling of pyrethroids for dose reconstruction in the Canadian population
      • Identification of biomarkers of environmental contaminant toxicity through analysis of MIREC samples
      • Dermal absorption of substances being assessed under the Chemicals Management Plan
      • Analytical tools for health and environmental biomonitoring of manufactured nanomaterials in chemical substances and Food and Drugs Act substances
      • Study of metabolomic and transcriptomic responses with high and low exposures to brominated flame retardants
  • Targeted Environmental Monitoring to Support the Chemicals Management Plan
    • Initiatives in this area conduct monitoring of chemical substances in various environmental media to better assess human exposures in support of risk management under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
      • Metal speciation and pesticides in Canadian house dust samples
      • National indoor air survey of chemicals under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Chemicals Management Plan
      • National survey of disinfection by-products and selected contaminants in Canadian drinking water
      • Dietary exposure of young children to emerging persistent organic pollutants and plasticizers
      • Human exposure assessment of perfluorinated compounds in fish caught near possible major industrial sources, and effects of skin removal and cooking on exposure

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