The number of new cases of cancer-causing cancer-causing chemical dioxin has increased in five years and nearly 800 new cases have been reported in Ontario.
New data from the Ontario Ministry of Health shows 994 cases of cancer-causing cancer-causing chemical, dioxin, in their registry since 2005. A total of 109 new cases were reported in schools. This is the first year that school-specific data was compiled, but in previous years the data was lumped together, according to a report.
Dr. Frank van Veldhuizen, associate deputy health officer with the Ontario Ministry of Health, said the data are based on radiation exposures at a small number of locations within the country.
“Based on that evidence, we have evidence that suggests that exposure to dioxin should be investigated,” Van Veldhuizen said. “Dioxin may well be a contributor in some cases to cancer.”
Van Veldhuizen said Ontario has data on the most recent cases of dioxin among kids that are reported every year and they show a pattern that the numbers seem to be on the rise.
The Ministry of Health reports say the new cases of children being diagnosed with cancer had doubled since 2013, from 145 cases in 2013 to 300 in 2018.
There were 24 cases reported in schools in 2016, but more than 110 cases were reported in 2017 and 2018.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Dr. David Da Silva, chair of the Cancer Council of Ontario, said the most recent findings have improved the public’s understanding of exposure to dioxin in public schools.
“The numbers are not unexpected,” said Da Silva, who was not associated with the ministry’s report. “Parents have concerns, for sure. There’s exposure to this toxic chemical in our schools. The different schools have the responsibility of making those schools safe.”
A statement released in response to the report by the Canadian Cancer Society says “using low levels of these dangerous chemicals in products” “poses significant risk to health.”
“There is no safe level of exposure,” the statement says. “The most people exposed to dioxin are U.S. soldiers, women in breast cancer treatment, Americans who were wounded in Iraq or other war zones, and other people exposed to dioxin by radioactive contamination, largely due to the use of Agent Orange.”
Dioxin can cause cancer ranging from skin cancer to a brain disease called an ischemic stroke, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“We’re very concerned about this,” said Vanessa McCarthy, senior project manager for regulatory affairs with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who was not associated with the report. “We’re very concerned about the lack of Canadian regulatory measures at this time.”
McCarthy said the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has two major issues with the lack of regulations on dioxin, the first is that it’s unregulated, and the second is there has been no active warning on the toxic chemicals in schools.
The new findings mark the first increase in dioxin cases among kids since 2013, she said.
“This is a significant increase for youth,” McCarthy said. “It’s good that we are finally being acknowledged as a public health concern. It’s good that the government has finally taken action.”
McCarthy added that she thinks that one area to look for a cause of the increase is how parents are making decisions about exposing their children to levels of dioxin.
“Some of these parents are exposing their children to dioxin,” she said. “The research has shown that when parents are exposed to health and environmental hazards and mercury in the womb, they’re much more likely to choose a healthier diet and less exposure to mercury and other toxins in the environment.”