MAC: Mines and Communities

Inco Test Results Confirm High Cancer Risks Inside Port Colborne Homes

Published by MAC on 2003-06-04

Inco Test Results Confirm High Cancer Risks Inside Port Colborne Homes

Port Colborne, Ontario

June 4, 2003 (For Immediate Release)

Inco Limited has finally released indoor air testing results from 31 Port Colborne homes, delayed by Inco’s consultants since January. Previously Inco had claimed they would show the air in these homes is safe. “However, a review of the actual results shows the opposite. In many homes the air appears to be unsafe by all existing standards” said Eric Gillespie, a lawyer acting for approximately 1,500 residents.

The results were provided to Dr. Mark Richardson, former head of Health Canada’s Air and Waste section and an internationally recognized health risk assessor. Testing from eight of ten homes in the highest zone of contamination reveals at least half have significantly more nickel in the air than recent MOE monitoring found elsewhere in Ontario. Inco’s own testing in fact demonstrates the air inside many homes contains between 50% and 350% more nickel, with two having more than 3,400% more total nickel than the average Ontario community. “Inco’s consultants only compared the smaller particles that likely cause lung cancer, when larger particles are also known to be associated with nasal cancers in humans. You cannot ignore this risk” said Richardson.

Health Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization have all published recognized values for determining cancer risks. If these are used, residents in these homes are being exposed to long term cancer risks at least 4 times higher than Ontario standards allow. In some homes the risks are up to 290 times greater. Inco has admitted it has no scientific explanation for this extraordinary level.

However, rather than relying on internationally accepted standards, Inco is now suggesting that a single study conducted by two researchers in North Carolina be used to calculate cancer risks for Port Colborne. While Inco has denied any involvement in the study, one of its two authors is an employee of the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association (NIPERA), a nickel industry association supported in part by Inco. The study was in fact funded by the same nickel industry association.

The study focuses on occupational exposures, which in the past Inco has said should not be used to calculate residential values. It has never been reviewed or accepted by any regulatory agency anywhere in the world. The study’s conclusions also focus on specific forms of nickel, when the Ministry of Environment has already determined the nickel in Port Colborne is a mixture of nickel oxide and other forms of nickel much closer to the nickel refinery dust used in Health Canada’s and EPA’s cancer assessments.

“Inco’s own testing has now shown high levels of nickel inside certain homes. These levels present elevated long term cancer risks to residents when assessed using internationally recognized standards developed for similar types of nickel to that found in Port Colborne. This confirms and vindicates residents and their experts, who have been saying all along that Inco is likely going to be faced with a very large scale clean-up including demolishing homes” said Gillespie. Later today residents will be protesting at the Scotia Capital Materials Conference in Toronto where Inco President and COO Peter Jones is scheduled to speak. Protests will also take place at the offices of Inco Board Members and Inco’s head offices.

For more information please contact Eric Gillespie at 416-593-4385 ext 225.


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