Engaging Youth in Conversations about Toxic Chemicals through the EduTOX Video Challenge

This article originally appeared on the Pollution Probe website.

EduTOX winners receive their prizes. From left to right, EduTOX Healthy Communities Campaign winners Jeffery Wu and team; John Foster (Great-West Life), Professor Eric Crighton (University of Ottawa), EduTOX winner Asha Mior; EduTOX winner Sebastien Molgat; Michelle Briere (University of Ottawa) and MP Dr. Kellie Leitch.

While the use of chemical substances can improve our standard of living, many can cause unintended health effects. Chemical substances that we encounter in day-to-day life can be determined hazardous based on factors including toxicity – the potential of a chemical to be harmful – and the route and duration of exposure. Studies have shown that one’s exposure to chemical substances can begin as early as the embryo and fetus development phase, through the blood vessels of the placenta in the womb. Hazardous chemicals like mercury, lead, BPA, asbestos, phthalates and many others can be inhaled, ingested, or even absorbed through the skin and pose a great risk to human health. As the use of chemical substances and additives increases with each generation, so too does the risk to all children and youth. So how do we take action and inform youth about the impacts of these potential toxins?

By making them a part of the solution of course!

Having youth lead the conversation on toxins can be truly effective. This year, as part of the Healthy Communities Campaign, Pollution Probe collaborated with partners including The Sandbox Project to run the EduTOX Video Challenge. Participants aged 14 to 22 created innovative and compelling short videos that outlined the links between toxins and health and, most importantly, motivated action. From January 21st to March 21st, the EduTOX Video Challenge received 45 video submissions from across Canada. The EduTOX website received close to 18,000 hits and the submitted videos were viewed over 10,000 times.

Eight impressive winners were selected, with two receiving Pollution Probe’s Healthy Communities Prize. Jeffrey Wu and his team won the best under-18 in Ontario prize with their video “Artificial Lights”, and Christine Balderson won the best-over 18 in Ontario prize for “Toxins in Art Supplies”. Both teams received a scholarship from Pollution Probe worth $1000. Other EduTOX prizes were awarded to Asha Mior, Sebastien Molgat, Katie van der Sloot, Elizabeth Greenberg and team, Audrey Boulerice and team, and Haley Kardash and team (their winning entries can be viewed at www.edutox.ca)

The EduTOX awards were presented on Wednesday, June 8th at the World’s Largest Sandbox Event. This annual event is held in Ottawa and invites Parliamentarians, media personalities, not-for-profits, and industry professionals to join a friendly sandcastle-building competition that brings attention to the need for collaboration on children’s health issues. The presentation of the EduTOX Video Challenge awards at this year’s event highlighted the critical role of environmental health for the overall wellbeing of communities.

The EduTOX Video Challenge encouraged youth to explore and better understand the impacts of harmful chemicals in everyday products and to take practical actions to reduce exposure. With each video submission, it was evident that the youth of today can effectively advocate for a healthier world in which to live, grow, work and play.

EduTOX winners join the Healthy Communities sandcastle-building team.

The EduTOX Video Challenge was a partnered project of The New Brunswick Lung Association, the David Suzuki Foundation, the University of Ottawa, Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment, Yellow Pages, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Pollution Probe, and The Sandbox Project.