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Preventing Breast Cancer: An Analysis of Canada's Regulatory Regime for Chemicals

Preventing Breast Cancer: An Analysis of Canada's Regulatory Regime for Chemicals

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Title: Preventing Breast Cancer: An Analysis of Canada's Regulatory Regime for Chemicals
Author: Sweeney, Ellen Christena
Abstract: Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. The incidence rates are such that one in nine Canadian women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. While social science research has demonstrated the influence of social, political, economic, and environmental factors on health outcomes, many still emphasize the role of traditional risk factors for breast cancer, such as family history or diet. However, these factors are unable to account for the increased incidence of the disease in industrialized countries. This leads to a call for more attention to the environmental links to breast cancer, including the ‘everyday exposures’ to toxic substances that we experience in our daily lives, which often include mammary carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the federal government’s Chemicals Management Plan are designed to protect the environment and the entire Canadian population from risks associated with exposure to toxic substances. This dissertation research examines the body of Canadian law, policy and practice which encompasses Canada’s regulatory regime for toxic substances. The regime is evaluated from a population health and primary prevention perspective. I asked: are the laws, policies and practices governing the everyday exposures to toxic substances in Canada inherently precautionary? And do they enact a primary prevention approach to women’s health?

The primary prevention of environmental health outcomes has not been a strong feature of public health policy and legislation in Canada, despite the efforts of environmental breast cancer activists who advocate for a precautionary approach. This research is steeped in politicized debates as it engages with issues central to women’s health, risk and the environment. I examine how the issues are communicated and understood, who the policies are designed to protect, and where the burden of risk is presumed to lie. I consider whether the policies capture the need for prevention and action related to women’s health. This research seeks to identify gaps in the law, policy and practice and in doing so, concludes that women’s health is not adequately protected from detrimental health outcomes as a result of everyday exposures to toxic substances, including breast cancer.
Subject: Environmental health
Environmental studies
Keywords: Population health
Breast cancer
Primary prevention
Women's health
Toxic substances
Environmental contaminants
Risk assessment
Risk management
Policy analysis
Interpretive policy analysis
CEPA 1999
Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999
Chemicals Management Plan
Precautionary consumption
Sex- and gender-based analysis
Risk society
Environmental justice
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/27618
Supervisor: Scott, Dayna N.
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Environmental Studies
Exam date: 2013-12-16
Publish on: 2014-07-09

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