In 2001, Canadian industries reported the release of 18,455,237 kilograms of known carcinogens into our air, soil and water. This dumping of carcinogens into our environment enables corporations to lower (externalize) their costs and maybe our prices as consumers (Wal-Mart), but not as citizens or workers who suffer the costs of lost labor and leisure time and costs to the health care system, not to mention the suffering and premature loss of loved ones and friends.

From 1970 to 1998, after controlling for aging, the incidence of cancer in Canada increased by 35% for men and 27% for women. One in every 2.4 Canadian men (41.2%) will develop cancer and one in every 3.6 (27.4%) will die from it. One in every 2.7 Canadian women (37.6%) will develop cancer and one in 4.3 (23.1%) will die from it. It is not as a result of individual lifestyle choices that most of us are exposed to carcinogens at work, in the environment and at home. This is demonstrated by a recent study led by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in collaboration with the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal. Nine volunteers, including PBS journalist Bill Moyers, were tested for the presence of chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in their blood and urine. None of the volunteers worked with chemicals on the job. Yet their bodies contained an average of 91 compounds, most of which did not exist 75 years ago. On average, each of the nine subjects carried 53 chemicals linked to cancer in humans or animals.

A 2006 Security and Prosperity Partnership report identified stricter pesticide residue limits in Canada as a “barrier to trade.” The Canadian Free Trade “solution” is to raise pesticide limits on hundreds of fruits and vegetables in an effort to merge its policies with the United States. Deregulating the food industry might help corporate profits, but not our cancer rates. Cancer is not a lifestyle issue or genetics issue nearly as much as it is a political issue.