Toxic chemicals: the legacy of a chemical society We are a "chemical" society, using hundreds of chemicals in our normal daily activities: washing, eating, house-cleaning, tending the lawn and garden, driving Of the almost 10 million chemicals known today, approximately 100 000 chemicals are used commercially.
Toxic chemicals: the legacy of a chemical society
Most toxic chemicals are discharged directly into our waterways as waste, but many also enter the water after everyday use in the home, agriculture and industry They constantly change the chemical composition of our waters
The chemicals can cause problems with the taste, odour and colour in water Fish and wildlife can experience reduced fertility, genetic deformities, immune system damage, increased incidence of tumours, and death
Non-persistent (degradable) Domestic sewage Fertilizers Some industrial wastes These compounds can be broken down by chemical reactions or by natural bacteria into simple, non-polluting substances such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen The process can lead to low oxygen levels and eutrophication if the pollution load is high
Persistent (degrade slowly) Many pesticides (e.g., DDT, dieldrin) Some leachate components from landfill sites (municipal, industrial) Petroleum and petroleum products Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) Radioactive materials such as strontium-90, cesium-137, radium-226, and uranium Metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium
Metal and positive ions: arsenic, lead, mercury Inorganic Contaminants
Organic Contaminants Pesticides are used in agriculture, forestry and homes PCBs although no longer used in new installations, are still found as insulators in older electrical transformers
PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are widely used by industry for their flame retarding properties Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products are being detected in an increasing number of waterbodies Organic Contaminants
Levels in the Environment State-of-the-art analytical instruments can detect down to one part per trillion of some substances – comparable to tracing one thousandth of a teaspoon of salt dissolved in an Olympic-size swimming pool Worsfold Water Quality Center www.trentu.ca/wqc
The Effects of Water Pollution Pollution is not always visible A river or lake may seem clean, but still be polluted In groundwater, on which over one quarter of all Canadians rely for their water supply, pollution is especially difficult to discern Nor are the effects of pollution necessarily immediate; they may take years to appear
What can we do? Use eco-friendly household products Don't misuse the sewage system Use elbow grease, not hazardous materials in your gardens and lawns Storm drains are not dumping sites for hazardous products Don't forget about water quality – even when you're having fun
For more information or to get involved Nature Canada – Water Campaign www.naturecanada.ca/advocate/water_campaign Environment Canada www.ec.gc.ca/WATER/ Ontario Ministry of the Environment www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/water Health Canada www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/water-eau/drink-potab Trent University – Worsfold Water Quality Center www.trentu.ca/wqc
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