A pioneering nationwide health survey by official agencies will seek to find out what kinds of toxic chemicals are in Canadians' bodies, as well as examining other health issues such as obesity and disease.
Starting with 700 residents of British Columbia, more than 5,000 Canadians between the ages of 6 and 79 will have been tested by the end of 2008. Participants must agree to a series of physical exams, fitness testing and blood and urine tests. They'll also be required to wear an activity monitor for seven days.
StatsCan will put the findings together for Health Canada and Canada's Public Health Agency. The results will become the first-ever comprehensive health study that directly measures things like obesity, lung function, chronic disease and levels of toxic chemicals in the blood.
Jeanine Bustros, the director of the physical health measures division of Statistics Canada, says the survey could have major significance for health policy, depending on the findings. "We don't know what the levels for the Canadian population are for lead, mercury, cadmium or any type of pthalate or pesticides," she told CBC News.
"This survey will allow us, for the first time, to have a benchmark, to be able to measure Are we getting better? Are we getting worse? in terms of the levels of contaminants in the Canadian population."
Individual health results will be protected by privacy laws, but will be provided to participants who request them, within weeks of testing. Only Canadians who are contacted by Statistics Canada are eligible to participate.
The results of the survey are confidential, but will be given to participants within weeks of testing.
A similar survey in the U.S. led to the elimation of lead from gasoline, when the metal was found to be present in high levels in the bloodstreams of citizens of that country.