MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian Press: Clean up properties contaminated by N.B.

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Canadian Press: Clean up properties contaminated by N.B.

smelter - environmental group

FREDERICTON (CP) - An environmental group is calling for a cleanup of properties it says are contaminated with lead in the northern New Brunswick community of Belledune.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick says it has obtained government studies which detail the community's exposure to lead, cadmium and arsenic from a nearby lead smelter.

The group cites a 2005 provincial health study that found Belledune residents had higher death, disease and cancer rates compared to other parts of the province.

The council's study, titled "Dying for Development", also says public servants have been aware for years that the 40-year-old smelter was causing health problems.

Documents obtained by the council say the federal Health Department discovered the high levels of lead in 1968, and in August 1981 the director of the federal bureau of chemical safety advised the New Brunswick government that lead contamination posed a health risk to residents.

It cites federal studies as far back as 1973 where officials document that farm animals living near the facility we're dying off in high numbers.

David Coon, the director of the conservation council, says the documents suggest a "public health scandal."

In December, the province released its own study of the Belledune area showing that lead levels in the bodies of pregnant women and children were within the normal range.

Seven pregnant women and 47 children were tested for lead levels, which ranged from 0.3 to 3.7 micrograms per decilitre.

According to Health Canada guidelines, blood-lead levels below 10 micrograms per decilitre aren't a medical concern.

The study showed that residents are at a greater risk of contracting certain cancers, but the health minister maintained the cancer and mortality rates are not linked to the region's heavy industrial activity.

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