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Harmful Effect of Toxins on the Canadian Environment

Canadians and the environment are exposed to many toxic substances that are released by manufacturing facilities, landfills, burning fossil fuels, and transportation.

Toxic Substances and Water Pollution

Harmful substances that are considered environmental hazards include heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and insecticides. Insecticides, for example, cause water pollution and are poisonous to domestic animals and fish. Pharmaceuticals that enter water bodies affect fish hormones while heavy metals cause reproduction problems. The problem is that toxic substances are everywhere. Pollution enters rivers, streams, and other water bodies through spills, runoffs, municipal and industrial discharge and waste, and in other ways. In Canada, areas that are at risk of pollution include agricultural regions, major municipal centres, industrial hubs, and mining regions. Sources of pollution in the area of St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes include the automotive industry, agriculture and food sectors, paint and plastic manufacturing, and others. The main sources of pollution in the area of Saint John River include forestry, the agriculture and food industries, oil industry, and paper and pulp industry. In the area of the Skeena River, the main sources include airports, municipal waste, wood processing, and forestry.

Water has become more acidic because of acid precipitation, and many aquatic species are now threatened while others are already extinct. Atlantic salmon in Quebec and southern Ontario is threatened because of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions.

Soil Pollution

Soil composition is negatively affected by acid rain which makes it more acidic. Acidic soils retain less potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients. Soils in the Canadian Shield are particularly vulnerable because they have a lower concentration of calcium carbonate which has a good acid neutralizing capacity. All soils can be negatively impacted by prolonged exposure to acidic chemicals. They are released and deposited through different types of precipitation, including rain, drizzle, hail, and snow. The main pollutants that are responsible for acid precipitation include ozone, sulphate particles, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide.

Air Pollution

Air pollution in Canada is mainly caused by the iron and steel industry, electricity generation, transportation, air transportation, and other sources. A number of factors cause fluctuations in the concentration of air pollutants, including altitude, wind direction and speed, air temperature. With the exception of sources such as dust storms, volcanoes, and soil erosion, the majority of pollutants are human made and are major sources of air pollution. The effects of air pollution include global warming, ozone depletion, plant damages, and others. The main air pollutants are volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and fine particulate matter. Nitrogen dioxide, for example, contributes to acid rain and photogenic smog formation while ozone (O3) contributes to crop yield reduction and ecosystem imbalance. Other harmful substances that cause pollution include sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. They are also considered human health hazards and can cause symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, vomiting, nausea, and weakness.


Efforts to reduce air, water, and soil pollution are the key to reducing our environmental footprint. The municipal authorities and territorial and provincial governments can designate certain areas as protected areas in an effort to preserve the ecological network and natural habitats. This means that industrial activities will no longer be permitted in designated areas to protect plant, animal, and aquatic species.

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