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INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
POSTED ON BEHALF OF ECOACTION 2000 COMMUNITY FUNDING PROGRAM,
ENVIRONMENT CANADA - ONTARIO REGION.
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS CAN BE INDOORS AS WELL AS OUTDOORS
If cleaning the recurring mildew in your bathroom gives you a headache,
if you're getting tired of spraying cockroaches that keep coming
back, and if asthma attacks are a common occurrence in your
household, your immediate concerns probably don't include learning
how to be kinder to the environment.
But they should, says Nita Chaudhuri of the South Riverdale Community
Health Centre in Toronto and co-ordinator of the Hidden Household
Your home is an environment too. And it's possible that your headaches
and your loved one's asthma are directly related to the chemical
cleaners and pesticides you are using.
After all, sprays designed to kill insects are poisonous, and commercial
mildew cleaners are among the most noxious of any cleaning product
you can use in your home. But, Chaudhuri says there are substitutes
for these chemicals that won't make you sick, and they are usually
Hidden Household Hazards works with householders in the Riverdale
area of Toronto to show them how to replace toxic cleaners and
pesticides with less noxious alternatives. Toxic products are a
particular problem in homes where ventilation is poor, where quarters
are cramped, or where there are persistent insect pests.
To help the program achieve its goal, Environment Canada's Action 21
Community Funding program supplied $55,187 to the two-year
project. Between July, 1997, and June, 1999, project workers expect
to have helped 1,000 households in the Riverdale area substitute
their noxious cleaners and pesticides for non-toxic, environmentally
Hidden Household Hazards concentrates on fixed income families, new
and expectant mothers, asthma patients, tenant groups and new
Canadians. Interactive workshops -- sometimes presented in the form
of an interactive play called Indoor Exposure -- are given at pre-
and post-natal classes and at English as a second language (ESL)
classes in the neighborhood.
The interactive community play uses humour and scenes from everyday
life to help audiences realize how ingredients in some common
household cleaners or pesticides can contribute to annoying health
problems, such as allergies and headaches. The dramatization has been
crafted by the Centre's Air Quality Workgroup so that audience
members can stop the action and suggest solutions to indoor air
"The play is very effective. It not only gets people thinking about the
correlations between toxics in their homes and their health, but we
have fun doing it," says project worker Karen Young.
Hidden Household Hazards has also recruited volunteer outreach workers
to help spread the word. When Vasta Gibbons of Donmount Court learned
how adding household plants, cutting out spray cleansers and
substituting non-toxic cleaners could help her breathe easier, she
volunteered to help spread the word within her 255-unit apartment
"Because I am asthmatic, I find them (alternative cleansers) very helpful
for my breathing," she says. Even though alternative cleaning
products in general aren't quite as effective as the more
conventional ones, "weighing the health concerns and the job (the
cleaners do), I think it is much better now."
Gibbons believes many of her neighbours' breathing problems could be
helped if they took a similar approach, and she is optimistic that
she will be able to convince at least some tenants to adopt a
"It isn't going to change the world," she says, but "it will help a lot of
Not only does reduced use of household toxics have the potential to
improve the health of project participants, it can reduce the amount
of hazardous substances dumped every day into Toronto area landfills
and washed down Toronto sewers. Eventually these products seep out of
landfills and into groundwater supplies, or the are passed from
sewage treatment plants into Lake Ontario. Either way, they
eventually get back into Torontonians' drinking water.
The Toronto area has been designated an Area of Concern (AOC) by the
International Joint Commission, the Canada-US body that monitors the
Great Lakes water quality agreement. Among factors contributing to
poor water quality are contaminated runoff from urban areas and
sewage treatment plant discharges that include toxic ingredients
from household cleaners and pesticides. Projects like Hidden
Household Hazards contribute to the overall cleanup and
rehabilitation of Toronto's watershed.
To find out if the Hidden Household Hazards program can help you, call
Karen Young or Nita Chaudhuri at the South Riverdale Community Health
Hidden Household Hazards is one of more than 100 Ontario initiatives
that have received partial funding from the Action 21 Community
Funding Program since its inception in 1995. Recently renamed
EcoAction 2000, the federal government program encourages non-profit
organizations to take environmental action at the local level. To be
eligible, projects must have matching funds or in-kind support,
respond to community needs and have measurable environmental results.
Funding applications are continually being accepted for deadlines
that fall on May 1, October 1 and February 1.
Other partners in Hidden Household Hazards include: the Eastview
Neighborhood Community Centre, the Toronto Environmental Alliance,
the Trillium Foundation and the Centre for Excellence in Research in
Immigration and Settlement.
To find out more about EcoAction 2000 funding in Ontario and how
your community group can qualify, contact the EcoAction information
line at 1-800-661-7785, or email to: email@example.com. See the
EcoAction 2000 web site on Environment Canada's Green Lane at