Tar Ponds/Coke Ovens: Band Study
Band / Camus Mortality Study
Mar. 27, 2003 - Sydney, NS - Without Prejudice - Dan McMullin

My Thanks To The Doctors For Their Professionalism And Kindness

They came bearing very targeted scientific research. None of it surprised many of us, except perhaps that Whitney Pier women have the highest death rates from lung cancer and heart disease. (Check out Band Mortality Study (Mar. 26 - Herald) )
or their full presentation (1.1 Meg PDF file)
The doctors made a few points very clear from the outset:

  • It was a mortality study, not a morbidity study
  • They looked at air pollution only
  • They covered 1961 to 1988 for very specific reasons:
    In 1961 enumeration maps became available. In 1988 the Coke Ovens closed.
  • Only Lung Cancer, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Disease were targeted
  • 3 exposure areas were considered:
    • High - Whitney Pier and surrounding areas (Part of North End)
    • Moderate - Ashby and surrounding area
    • Low/Reference - remaining areas of Sydney
  • They used death certificates only and did not attempt to adjust for factors such as life style, heredity, length of residency in the target area, occupation, etc.

Statistically Significant Results Confirm Our Suspicions: The results do indeed show that as you move from the low/reference area toward Whitney Pier, disease rates do increase significantly. We're cautioned by the authors not to imply causality here; The study does not prove that the air pollution caused the higher incidence of diseases observed, but it certainly makes a good case.

Cohort Study Needed:

Emotions ran high among the crowd at times. Many of them had seen whole streets affected by death and disease; even neighbourhood animals had died. One man angrily asked why they had not done a "cohort study" examining the Steelworkers themselves instead of just death certificates. The JAG Health Studies Working Group that had convened the evening meeting indicated that they had already requested that a Cohort Study be done. We thank JAG for their persistence on these issues.

Offensive And Misleading Last Slide

This author was offended by the last overhead in the slide presentation entitled "Concluding Remarks"
I include the slide below in its entirety to allow you to judge for yourself what final point you feel the author(s) were trying to make.
Please note that Doctors Band and Camus were not the authors of the slide below.
  • This study looked at the past exposure
  • This exposure does not exist today
  • The recent studies show that the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites do not pose a health risk today to residents off the sites.
  • Individuals concerned about their own health should speak with their family doctor.

The conclusion begged by this slide above is that "The pollution ended in 1988. Therefore the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites no longer pose a risk to the residents off the sites" Let me suggest that the slide's authors read the book Frederick Street and maybe they will realize why former residents like Debbie Ouellette well up with emotion when they get up to speak. The toxic ooze is still there, and although most of the Frederick St. homes are gone, people still live in close proximity to both the Tar Ponds and the Coke Ovens.
The home shown below is nestled up against the Coke Ovens fence.
(Photo taken Mar. 26, 2003)

Until the toxic soil and sludge is appropriately dealt with, area resident have very good reason to "speak with their family doctor". Until the cleanup is actually completed, we should all follow the lead of JAG member and environmental watchdog Marlene Kane; relentlessly ask the right questions until you get the right answers, and with those answers, action.