Trends in environmental chemical concentrations in the Canadian population: Biomonitoring data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007-2017
By Pollock, Tyler, Subramanian Karthikeyan, Mike Walker, Kate Werry, and Annie St-Amand
June 16, 2021
Ten years of nationally representative biomonitoring data collected between 2007 and 2017 are available from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). These data establish baseline environmental chemical concentrations in the general population. Here we sought to evaluate temporal trends in environmental chemical exposures in the Canadian population by quantifying changes in biomarker concentrations measured in the first five two-year cycles of the CHMS. We identified 39 chemicals that were measured in blood or urine in at least three cycles and had detection rates over 50% in the Canadian population. We calculated geometric mean concentrations for each cycle using the survey weights provided. We then conducted analyses of variance to test for linear trends over all cycles. We also calculated the percent difference in geometric means between the first and most recent cycle measured. Of the 39 chemicals examined, we found statistically significant trends across cycles for 21 chemicals. Trends were decreasing for 19 chemicals from diverse chemical groups, including metals and trace elements, phenols and parabens, organophosphate pesticides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and plasticizers. Significant reductions in chemical concentrations included di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP; 75% decrease), perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS; 61% decrease), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; 58% decrease), dimethylphosphate (DMP; 40% decrease), lead (33% decrease), and bisphenol A (BPA; 32% decrease). Trends were increasing for two pyrethroid pesticide metabolites, including a 110% increase between 2007 and 2017 for 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA). No significant trends were observed for the remaining 18 chemicals that included arsenic, mercury, fluoride, acrylamide, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. National biomonitoring data indicate that concentrations, and therefore exposures, have decreased for many priority chemicals in the Canadian population. Concentrations for other chemical groups have not changed or have increased, although average concentrations remain below thresholds of concern derived from human exposure guidance values. Continued collection of national biomonitoring data is necessary to monitor trends in exposures over time.
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