Water Quality & Chemical Contaminants

While Canada has a relatively high standard of drinking water quality, contaminants in the water supply have been identified as a threat to public health in Canada. Recent outbreaks of waterborne disease in Walkerton, Ontario and North Battleford, Saskatchewan are unfortunate reminders that drinking water can be a source of human exposure to lethal contaminants.  Although microbiological contaminants such as E. coli and cryptosporidium continue to pose the greatest threat, chemical contaminants in Canadian drinking water represent an emerging concern. For chemical contaminants, the levels of exposure are very low, and are not usually associated with acute health effects. Instead, the problems may emerge after prolonged periods of exposure to this source of chemical and radiological contaminants, raising concerns around the cumulative toxic effects which can contribute to a range of chronic adverse health effects.

This emerging research calls into question levels of chemical exposures previously considered “safe”. For some chemicals, it is increasingly clear that no “safe” thresholds exist, particularly when considering exposures during certain key windows of vulnerability, based on reproductive and developmental phases. As a result, these chronic exposures have the potential to disproportionately affect women’s health.