A significant risk of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda, according to the INSPQ

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A non-negligible risk of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda, according to the INSPQ

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau

The risk of getting cancer is higher in Rouyn-Noranda and public health believes that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

It's what she concludes by noting the results of the study conducted by the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ).

Dr Luc Boileau affirms that, for him, it is not tolerable that the arsenic emissions from the Horne Smelter continue at the same level.

Let's be very clear right now. For me, maintaining arsenic emissions at the current level is not acceptable considering the health impacts that are known. Those emissions need to be scaled back, he said.

If the status quo continues, there could be 13 to 550 more cases of breast cancer. lung per million inhabitants, while the risk considered negligible in Quebec is 1 case per million inhabitants.

Arsenic Lung Cancer Risk Estimates

Status quo

from 13 to 554 more cases of lung cancer per million inhabitants

Exposure to 50 ng/m3

36% reduction in risk

20 ng/m3 exposure

44% decrease in risk

Exposure to 3 ng/m3 (Quebec standard)

decrease in 48% of the risk

Source: INSPQ

When asked why this information was not presented to the public sooner, the President and CEO of the Integrated Health and Social Services Center of Abitibi-Témiscamingue (CISSS-AT ), Caroline Roy, replied that it was really just recently that we noticed that there are inequalities in health.

According to Dr. Boileau, the data that the we hold today do not justify requiring the closure of the Horne Foundry.

Dr. Boileau expects the Horne Foundry to put in place measures to reduce its heavy metal emissions. I think they're taking notice and I think they're going to move on, he said.

Public Health will not recommend a specific arsenic concentration figure to the Foundry.

The objective is to avoid these emissions as much as possible, without necessarily closing the company, this can be an option, depending on the levels they will be able to achieve, but that is a measure that will be taken by the community and the government, says Dr. Boileau.

Public health will await the emission reductions that the Foundry will propose in the coming weeks and will then assess the health risks.

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The study assesses the risks of having cancer over a period of 70 years, from 1990 to 2060, considering arsenic emissions from average 87 nanograms per cubic meter, i.e. the concentration observed in recent years.

Calculations show that, in such a scenario, we would see, in the urban perimeter of Rouyn-Noranda, 1 to 14 more cases of lung cancer.

Although these figures may seem minimal, Dr. Boileau points out that the data are worrying.

If we reduce this to rates of 1 per million, we greatly exceed the normally acceptable risks and that we want to avoid when we are exposed to such contaminants, he says.

In Quebec, public health considers that we do not want more than one cancer per million population per 70 years of exposure.

What does the INSPQ study tell us about arsenic and cancer in Rouyn-Noranda? Did Dr. Luc Boileau succeed in reassuring the population? Geneviève Asselin receives Nicole Desgagnés, spokesperson for the citizen committee “Stopping discharges and toxic emissions”.

Dr. Boileau assures that public health will provide more information to the population in the coming weeks regarding other possible health impacts, not only from arsenic, but also from other heavy metals.

The Notre-Dame district of Rouyn-Noranda and the Horne Foundry

Public health believes that these steps should take place more quickly since previous studies have made it possible to collect the necessary data.

That's why 'we can allow ourselves at this time, since we have looked at the literature in detail, to go and dig into very specific questions, indicates Stéphane Trépanier, director of regional public health.

Dr. Boileau points out that other health concerns in Rouyn-Noranda, such as life expectancy, low birth weight babies and lung disease, cannot be attributed entirely to emissions from the Horne Foundry.

To assume today that these differences are due to emissions would be a serious error and would be implausible. There is a portion that can perhaps be explained by this. We have just characterized it for cancer, but for the other dimensions, it would be, I think, extremely surprising, he says.

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