Some Port Hope residents are suffering from chronic, long-term uranium contamination. That is the finding of a new study by the Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee and the Uranium Medical Research Centre.
Nine members of the Port Hope community, including four nuclear industry workers and five civilians volunteered to be part of the study. Urine samples were collected and sent to a lab in Frankfurt, Gemany where they were tested for radionuclides and heavy metal toxins. Doctors found industrial and depleted uranium in the volunteers, including one child.
People, air, water, and soil in the Port Hope area have been exposed to nuclear and industrial contamination for a generation, because of the uranium refinery (now a uranium conversion facility), the CANDU-reactor fuel bundling plant, and the dozens of low-level radioactive waste sites scattered around the area. The Port Hope Harbour became one of the Great Lakes' "Areas of Concern" after 90,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste was found at the bottom of the lake nearly thirty years ago. This wide-spread contamination and the ongoing community struggles prompted Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to label Port Hope "Canada's nuclear sacrifice zone."
Residents in Port Hope first asked the Canadian government to conduct health studies in the community more than a decade ago. Nonprofit organizations and environmentalists echoed the local concerns in submissions made throughout the low-level radioactive waste cleanup environmental assessment process. The federal government denied the requests and approved a plan to consolidate the radioactive waste earlier this year.
Some controversial reports published by Health Canada suggest the town suffers from significantly higher levels of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer. According to an independent assessment, Health Canada's statistics show an elevated death rate as well as increased incidents of leukemia, childhood cancer deaths, and lung and brain cancers among other concerns. These studies are based on statistics and modeling, however, so the results are theoretical and have been interpreted differently by different experts.
The Health Concerns Committee study is groundbreaking because it marks the first time that actual samples were collected from individuals. The volunteer organization raised $11,000 through silent auctions and other fundraising efforts. Those funds were enough to sample the nine volunteers who had histories of exposure to uranium and health issues. The Health Concerns Committee results provide absolute proof that uranium is entering the bodies of Port Hope residents. That proof must now prompt a full, independent investigation. The community deserves to know who is contaminated, how contaminated they are, where the contamination came or is coming from, and what will be done about it.
The Health Concerns Committee and the UMRC released the study at a press conference hosted by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper on Tuesday, November 13, 2007.
For more information on the study, please visit: www.porthopehealthconcerns.com
For background on the Port Hope issue, please see past editions of Waterkeeper.ca Weekly:
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
1-hour Port Hope special on Living at the Barricades Podcast Waterkeeper Mark Mattson and Vice President Krystyn Tully discuss the Port Hope study in a special two-part series of our weekly radio show, Living at the Barricades.