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July l5, l997
The Globe and Mail Newspaper
It was interesting to read medical researcher Dr. Donald Forsdyke's opinion as to "the proper role of breast cancer activists" (Globe and Mail, letter to editor, July l5, l997). However his assertion that such activists have been very effective is inconsistent with the observation that this disease as well as adult cancers of the blood, prostate, central nervous system, skin, and testicles and also childhood cancers have become significantly more common in the industrialized world in the last quarter of this century.
One point that activists have tried to make is that environmental pollution has something to do with this rising incidence. The medical literature has been replete with hints that this is indeed the case. However government public health agencies have been reluctant to acknowledge the point, presumably because of the costly implications for our industrialized society.
The academic medical establishment has not always been capable of moving cancer research in appropriate and effective directions, a point recently made by Drs. John Bailar and Heather Gornik, epidemiologists at the University of Chicago, in their review entitled Cancer Undefeated (New England Journal of Medicine, May 29, l997).
This may be in part because of academic medical researcher's heavy reliance on funding from the pharmaceutical industry which in turn may realize large profits from conventional cancer treatment. Given academic physicians fealty to pharmaceutical corporations as well as physician's inherent vested interest in various forms of diagnosis and treatment, research into various cancer prevention strategies such as environmental protection has fallen behind.
At the other end of the pipe Canadian governments out of their warm concern for the interests of large polluting corporations have lately been increasingly anxious to deregulate industrial activity as it affects the environment.
Health and environmental activists should continue to do what they have always done best which is to advocate for public health issues. This in order as Dr. Forsdyke says to keep academic and regulatory institutions from going off course.
A. C. Goddard-Hill
August 18, l998
The Editor,The Community Press, Quinte Edition
Thankyou for you editorial of August l5 entitled Note to Harry Danford MPP in which you decry back-yard burning of waste. This practice is increasingly occurring within the rural community as an unintended and unfortunate by-product of the user pay system of waste retrieval both in our area and across the continent. It is an irresponsible activity which threatens the health of the community, particularly children. Cigarette smoking produces some 4000 toxic chemicals to be inhaled by the smoker. Waste incineration may be thought of as a form of "community smoking" as it produces a similar number of toxics which are spewed out into the environment for general consumption.
In southern Ontario air quality continues to decline and cardiorespiratory deaths are increasing as a result. The Canadian Institute of Environmental Law and Policy together with the Ontario Medical Association have recently reported that 1800 premature deaths annually from cardiorespiratory causes are currently attibutable to smog in the Province of Ontario. Many factors contribute to air pollution and waste incineration is certainly one of them.
Your favourable view of centralized waste incineration facilities as an alternative is no longer tenable. This technology has proven to be a disappointment and is to a large extent being abandoned in Europe and the United States .The International Joint Commission in its recent 9th Biennial Report has once again called for abolition of the technology in the provinces and states of the Great Lakes Basin because of its measurable contribution to water and air pollution. Incineration produces a wide variety of toxic chemicals and heavy metals which are either dispersed into the air through smoke stacks or left behind in a highly contaminated ash which has to be disposed of as hazardous waste in yet another landfill site.
A recent review of the medical literature summarizes the wide variety of human health effects caused by waste incineration (see www.salu.net/gh ). These range from reproductive damage and tumors in adult women and men to brain damage in babies and a variety of serious illnesses in children. Unfortunately this message has not yet registered in all communities. In this era of environmental deregulation those communities increasingly need to act responsibly on their own if they wish to maintain the quality of their environment.
On the urban side ironically the incineration of medical waste has been shown to be the largest source of dioxin and a major source of mercury currently entering the North America environment. Unfortunately many hospitals in the province of Ontario continue to utilize this stone age technology in an era when virtually every other aspect of hospital practice is computerized.
The solution is to develop existing and potential waste reduction technologies to the max. The Quinte Region has proven to be a leader in North America in this respect. I recently toured the Quinte Regional Recycling Facility with Dr. Paul Connett, a world reknown authority on waste reduction and incineration. Dr. Connetts observation was that in his travels around the globe he has seen few facilties as advanced as our own, now in operation for seven years under the leadership of Mr. Sandy Smith.
Waste incineration, whether by back yard burning or in centralized facilities is making people ill. The problems of landfills are also legion. Both of these methods need to be eliminated in favor of high grade waste reduction methods. The people of Quinte have been enthusiastic supporters of waste reduction and should be proud of their advocacy for the environment in this very practical way. Those who continue to burn trash in their back yards need to ask themselves if they wish to continue to contribute to human and environmental health problems in their community.
A. C. Goddard-Hill
September 6, 1998
Editor, The Community Press, Quinte Edition
I thank John Milnes for his detailed reply (Sept 5) to my response (August 29) to your original editorial of August 15. While we obviously disagree in the matter of waste incineration I completely support his perspective on the problems associated with landfills. His reference to recent research published in the medical journal Lancet showing a possible increase in congenital anomalies in families living near landfills in Europe (Dolk et al, August 8, l998) is certainly of interest. To reply to his point about the position of the International Joint Commission I can only quote from their Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, l998 in which it is recommended that there should be "increased recycling of solid waste to reduce precursors of dioxin-like substances going to all types of incinerators" (page 37) and "phasing out .....of existing incinerators..." (page 38).
I am a little disturbed by his characterization of Dr. Connett , which I believe is inaccurate. It is aways useful however for participants in any debate to declare any financial interest . Personally I have no financial investment in the waste management industry. I expect that your newspaper will receive a statement from Dr. Connett regarding his interests. It would be helpful in turn for Milnes to declare whether he has now or in the past had any connection with the incinerator industry.
A.C. Goddard-Hill, M.D.
To The Editor, Hamilton Spectator:
Hamilton and Dioxins March 15, 1999
Residents in the Hamilton-Wentworth area may be interested in a new report released by Environment Canada in January of this year. The report is a nation-wide inventory of three persistent toxic substances that have significant effects on human health, namely dioxins, furans and hexachlorobenzene (HCB).
According to the inventory a significant source of dioxin release in Ontario is the Regions municipal solid waste incinerator, SWARU. Municipal incineration of solid waste is by far the largest source of dioxin emissions in Canada, accounting for about half of the total. Incineration of medical and hospital waste also continues to make a large contribution to the toxic burden entering the North American environment.
Dioxins, and in particular the chlorinated variety commonly released by the burning of PVC plastics, may be an important cause of human cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, a division of the World Health Organization, has identified the most potent dioxin, TCDD, as a known human carcinogen. Many of the less potent dioxins are considered probable human carcinogens.
Studies in Britain and Columbus, Ohio found a significant increase in cancer rates among populations living near municipal incinerators. Estimates from credible sources as to the number of human cancers caused by dioxin range from one to 120 per thousand. What experts do agree upon is that for some reason breast and testicular cancers and Non Hodgkins lymphomas are increasing in North America and that childhood cancer has risen by at least twenty per cent in the past twenty years. Thus there is an obvious question about the role of environmental toxics in the occurrence of these cancers.
With respect to human diseases other than cancer the medical literature has recently been reporting that low level exposure to dioxins and similar compounds can cause disorders of human reproduction and development, brain injury in children, and immunologic and hormonal disorders.
The World Health Organization has established a Tolerable Daily Intake, TDI, for dioxins. This figure is based on the current understanding of the health effects of these chemicals and is the amount that humans can safely consume without incurring ill health . The TDI is measured in Picograms ,or trillionths of a gram. Ninety per cent of our daily intake comes from food. At the present time North American residents eating an average diet are routinely consuming more than the TDI. Particularly disturbing is the fact that infants being fed formula in the first six months of life consume 5 times the TDI of dioxin while those that are breast fed are rewarded with 25 times the TDI of dioxin. The long term effects of this chemical assault on infants are only beginning to be understood.
Contrary to popular belief incineration does not destroy waste but simply changes the chemical composition and toxicity of the material which is burned. Indeed the incinerator may act as a large chemical synthesizer which creates combustion products such as dioxins, furans and hcbs . These are considerably more toxic than the original material and are dispersed through the surrounding countryside via stack emissions or are captured before release into the air and deposited in the residual ash.
Under current provincial regulation of air emissions from municipal incinerator stacks dioxins and furans are monitored, when resources allow, using point-of-impingement standards. The adequacy of this standard as an indicator of the concentrations of these compounds in the local environment and of their effects on human health has long been questioned . Ironically medical waste incinerators in Ontario, often of Stone Age vintage and technology, are completely exempt from any regulation whatsoever.
Dioxins and furans are also part of the ash content produced during garbage incineration. The residual toxic fly and bottom ash, which amounts to approximately 30 tonnes for every 100 tonnes of waste originally fed into an incinerator, has to be dumped into landfill sites. In the United States this residual ash is defined as hazardous waste as it contains a wide variety of chorinated organic chemicals as well as heavy metals. In some cases the ash is used as surface covering in landfill sites thus facilitating the further distribution of toxics into the surrounding environment. Unfortunately this has been part of a sordid tradition of waste disposal methods around the shores of Lake Ontario in the last half of this century . This tradition has left a legacy of municipal and hazardous waste sites leaching toxics into the adjacent ground and surface waters with the consequent public health problems which are now being reported in the medical literature.
In 1992 the Government of Ontario enacted a ban on the construction of new municipal waste incinerators and declined the opportunity to build a hazardous waste incinerator in West Lincoln, Ontario. Unfortunately the ban has since been reversed although no new facilities have yet appeared in the province of Ontario. The Region of Hamilton-Wentworth has recently decided to continue burning waste rather than converting to more environmentally friendly options. As we enter the new century with a better understanding of the relationship between human health and the integrity of the natural environment this is a disappointing strategy.
For those who wish to know more about the health effects of exposure to Everyday Carcinogens in our environment Health Canada is sponsoring a conference in Hamilton on March 26 and 27 at McMaster University. Interested and knowledgeable individuals from the academic, public health and (most importantly) the general community are expected to attend. For further information and registration call 705-454-8107.
A. C. Goddard-Hill, M.D,
July 31, 1999
Editor, The Globe and Mail Newspaper
In her annual negative review of the World Conference on Breast Cancer (Truth takes a holiday, July 31, 1999) Margaret Wente again quotes the equally dismissive Steven Narod, head of breast cancer research at Womens College Hospital.
On this occasion however he makes the startling allowance that that elimination of environmental pollution could produce a five percent reduction in breast cancer incidence. Perhaps he could compare this to the marginal benefits of mammography and treatment. I suspect that the net effect of incidence reduction would be vastly superior.
There is, contrary to Wente's assertion, plenty of evidence to support continued research and action on environmental carcinogens. Unfortunately government and the corporations have thrown environmental health research into a state of collapse in the second half of this decade, just when it is needed most.
What a shame.
October 15, l999
The Community Press
In a full page ad in the October 6, 1999 edition of the Globe and Mail , the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association announced their success in recycling newspapers and other paper products in some 62 recycling mills across the country.
While their recycling initiative is highly laudable there
was no mention in the ad of the industry's failure to take the next step in the process which is conversion to chlorine-free methods of paper production. As a consequence Canadian pulp and paper mills continue to churn out toxic chlorinated dioxin-contaminated wastes. These present a major disposal problem to which there is no satisfactory solution.
Present non-solutions include incineration and as well the clever ploy of marketing pulp waste disguised as dust-suppressants for rural roads and as rather dubious
fertilizer for use on agricultural land. For example in Eastern Ontario in the past decade some 50 million litres per year of dioxin contaminated pulp liquor has been spread over the back roads of 90 townships in the Bay of Quinte watershed. This practice is hardly sensible given that at last measure in 1992 Canadian breast milk already
contained 25 times the safe level of chlorinated dioxin, all of which has as its source environmental contamination by industrial activities such as the pulp and paper processing.
The International Joint Commission of the Great Lakes has over the last decade repeatedly encouraged the pulp and paper industry to convert to non-toxic chlorine-free processing methods for reasons related to human health.
Unfortunately, as was apparent at the recent IJC biennial meeting in Milwaukee (which the Globe did not report), in the current environment of government indifference to this issue the industry has not responded.
Perhaps in their next ad the CPPA could explain this aspect of their recycling strategy.
To the Globe publisher and readers it may be just
newspaper but to the young children of the country it is a matter of mother's milk.
A. C. Goddard-Hill
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