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March 21, 2002
Medical Officer of Health calls for action on cancer
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, today released a report
on environmental and occupational exposure to carcinogens and called on
provincial and federal authorities to take action to address urgent public
health issues identified by the research.

Dr. Basrur said the report presents a clear challenge: "Multiple exposures to
carcinogens in our outdoor and indoor air, and in some food sources and many
workplaces, likely contribute to high rates of cancer. But we do not have the
basic information to put together a comprehensive prevention strategy. All
levels of government need to do much more to fill in the gaps."

The report is an assessment of the potential for exposure to 10 key carcinogens
in Toronto's workplaces and environment. The research shows that nine
carcinogens are present in outdoor air and five are present in indoor air at
levels that approach or exceed the "tolerable" benchmark for risk of cancer.

The report calls for
· The provincial and federal environment ministries to expand data collection
to include more sources of emissions release, and move quickly to establish
health-protective air standards
· The provincial labour ministry and Cancer Care Ontario to set priorities for
investigating occupational exposure, and work with the provincial ministries of
environment and health to set priorities for assessing and reducing
occupational and environmental carcinogens
· The Toronto Board of Health identify strategies to reduce the release of the
10 carcinogens in Toronto.

Dr. Lynn Marshall, Medical Director of the Environmental Health Clinic at
Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, expressed support for
the recommendations in the report. "The current state of knowledge on
cancer-causing agents in our everyday environments is totally inadequate. This
report helps us as a society to press our elected representatives to protect us
where we cannot protect ourselves."

The report was prepared by Toronto Public Health in response to the City of
Toronto's Environmental Plan and the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition Action
Plan. It will be used as a background document for a roundtable of experts and
stakeholders being convened in Toronto in May to address cancer prevention

For background information (also attached to this e-mail message), including
the full report, visit:

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