Many of the chemicals we use in everyday life and in many industrial processes pollute the environment. They interfere with the life-sustaining biological processes of plants and animals, resulting in decreased reproductive ability and death.

We are lucky to live in an ecosystem that is pristine and unpolluted compared to more urbanized and industrialized areas, but the potential for pollution does exist. The presence of major shipping routes through the Cabot Strait probably presents the greatest danger to the northern Cape Breton ecosystem. So far Cape Breton has escaped major spills, but some smaller ones have occurred around the island.

Amazingly, although the northern Cape Breton ecosystem is downwind from the major industrial areas of the continental United States and Canada, we are relatively unaffected by acid rain. Something in the soils here in northern Cape Breton reduces the acidity of the rain so that many of our rivers have a neutral pH by the time they reach the coasts.

The variety of chemicals now available for small users such as householders is, however, increasing and could contribute to pollution in our ecosystem if we are not careful about how we use them and how we dispose of them.