MAC: Mines and Communities

Inco study shows abnormal disease in refinery town

Published by MAC on 2003-12-15

Inco study shows abnormal disease in refinery town

From CBC News, Toronto

December 12 2003

A study commissioned by Inco shows abnormal rates of respiratory disease in a southwestern Ontario town where the nickel company ran a refinery for 56 years.

The neighbourhoods near Inco's facility in Port Colborne are now contaminated with nickel, lead and other toxins.

Residents have been campaigning for air-quality testing and a government-ordered cleanup around the plant site. The study released Thursday compared hospital admissions in Port Colborne to those in 35 other Ontario communities over two decades.

It focused on 19 medical conditions related to the toxins ­ including nickel, cobalt, copper and arsenic ­ that Inco has acknowledged came from its refinery. For five of those conditions, Ventana Clinical Research Corporation concluded that Port Colborne residents tested higher than average. It found high rates of acute respiratory infections and asthma, as well as kidney, bladder and genital problems.

It also found elevated levels of coronary artery disease and circulatory problems. "I think that it is something that warrants further research and further information for the community," said Ventana spokesperson Lawrence Stevenson.

"I don't think that it's something that needs to cause alarm," he added, "but sort of a concerned vigilance would probably be warranted."

A specialist in the health effects of air pollution said the results call for a closer look at Port Colborne.

"The hospitalization rates are high, and not just a little bit high," said Dr. David Pengally, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton. "They are well over, for some diseases over 50-per-cent higher than the rest of the province."

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