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Belledune Update

Published by MAC on 2006-06-16

Belledune Update

16th June 2006

Cancer study won't ignore lead smelter

Last updated Jun 16 2006 09:36 AM ADT

CBC News

Heavy-metal contamination can't be ruled out as the cause of high cancer rates in the Belledune area, New Brunswick officials admitted Thursday.(FROM JUNE 15, 2006: Province warned about Belledune health hazard, documents show) Responding to a report that suggests provincial officials covered up concerns about Noranda's lead smelter in Belledune, provincial officials said on Thursday they won't discount the possible health effects of contamination in the northeastern New Brunswick town.

Provincial epidemiologist Christopher Balram said an upcoming study of high cancer rates would consider the possible role of the lead smelter.

In preparing its report, the Conservation Council went through thousands of pages of internal government memos and reports dating back to the 1970s. Those documents reveal that an environmental impact assessment of the smelter was criticized as misleading, and overly optimistic. Another report highlighting contamination in Belledune was toned down before it was released to the public. On Thursday, Environment Minister Trevor Holder acknowledged those reports were flawed, and insists that the same mistakes woulnd't be made again. "That process is clearly not today what it was in 1980," he said. "It's a lot better than what it was." Two weeks ago, Balram ruled out lead contamination as the cause of high cancer rates in Belledune, and said an upcoming health study would look at other possible causes including family history, nutrition, and smoking habits.

(FROM JUNE 2, 2006: Study rules out smelter as cause of cancer) On Thursday, Balram said the smelter factor would be taken into consideration. Government officials have said repeatedly there's no proof lead contamination led to cancer in Belledune. Balram now says it probably can't be ruled out, either.

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