Consideration of Sex and Gender in Pesticide Risk Assessment


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Organization: Health Canada

Published: January 2020

Before a pesticide can be sold or used in Canada, Health Canada scientists evaluate potential risks to human health and the environment.

Health Canada takes into account that pesticides may pose higher risks to certain groups of people based on differences in factors such as:

  • Biology
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Behaviour
  • Age
  • Occupation

Health Canada’s decisions about how pesticides can be used are based on protecting the most sensitive group.

Biological, Social and Cultural Considerations

Biological Differences in Toxicity

Toxins can have different effects on males and females due to differences in body fat, mass, hormones and organs.

All human health toxicity studies must include both male and female subjects.

Examples of sex-specific toxic effects include:

  • Organ-specific functions (breasts, testes, ovaries, uterus)
  • Certain types of cancer (breast, testicular)
  • Fertility
  • Fetal growth and development

Social and Cultural Factors Resulting in Exposure

Examples of pesticide exposure routes and environments include

  • Occupational
  • Exposure through skin
  • Dietary
  • Residential/bystander
  • Prenatal
  • Breast milk
  • Drinking water

Health Canada scientists evaluate risks to Canadians, including susceptible groups, in environments where exposure might happen.

Consideration of more susceptible populations, including pregnant women, infants, children, women and seniors, is a requirement of the Pest Control Products Act.

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