Measuring your exposure to chemicals

Chemicals are everywhere: in air, soil, water, products, and food. Every day, people living in Canada are exposed to a variety 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

The levels of chemicals in blood and urine (or other tissues and fluids) are measured using a process known as human 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.

How the Government of Canada helps protect you

The Government of Canada, in collaboration with other institutes, conducts a number of human biomonitoring activities in general and targeted populations within Canada. These activities include the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Research Platform, and the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP).

Human biomonitoring helps us better understand how exposure to chemicals 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 information to set priorities for future research on chemicals.

Human biomonitoring 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 products available to consumers, 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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