Measuring your exposure to chemicals

Chemicals are everywhere: in air, soil, water, products, and food. Every day, Canadians are exposed to a number of chemicals that can enter the body through eating, breathing, or skin contact.

The health risks of chemicals depend on several factors, such as:

  • the type of chemical
  • the amount you're exposed to
  • how long and how often you're exposed

Measuring exposure

As part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), the levels of chemicals in blood and urine are measured using a process known as biomonitoring. This information tells us how much of a chemical is present in a person at a given time.

Did you know?

The presence of a chemical in your body does not always affect your health.

Chemical exposure diagram
Measuring your exposure to chemicals - Chemical exposure diagram - description

This figure shows how a person or population can be exposed to environmental chemicals. Once a chemical is released from its source, it can travel through various types of environmental media to points where human exposure can occur. Air, soil, water, products, and food are the major types of media from which chemical exposure can occur. When a person interacts with or is exposed to these media, chemicals can enter a person's body through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact.

About the CHMS

The survey's latest data from 2009-2011, includes the results for 91 chemicals measured in Canadians ages three to 79.

Results from 2007-2009 were released in 2010.

The CHMS is led by Statistics Canada in partnership with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

How the Government of Canada helps protect you

Each additional cycle of biomonitoring data from the CHMS helps us better understand how exposure to chemicals in the environment is changing over time. It also allows us to see if we've been effective in reducing exposures to certain chemicals and if additional protective measures are required. We also use this data to set priorities for future research on chemicals.

This biomonitoring survey is just one of many ways we work to reduce the risks of chemicals in our environment. It is part of a larger initiative known as the Chemicals Management Plan, which sets clear priorities for assessing and managing hundreds of chemicals. For example, Canada was the first country in the world to take action to protect newborns and infants against bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles.

We also set strict content limits for specific chemicals in several consumer products or cosmetics, such as:

  • cadmium in cosmetics and glazed ceramics and glassware
  • lead in cosmetics, children's jewellery, glazed ceramics and glassware, paints and coatings on furniture, toys, and other children's products
  • phthalates in cosmetics, toys, and child care articles

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