Tar ponds no health hazard to pregnant women: study

Last Updated: Jun 8 2005 08:57 AM ADT

SYDNEY– Pregnant women living near Sydney's tar ponds have normal levels of contaminants in their blood, according to a new study.

From May 2001 to July 2003, researchers collected blood samples from 115 expectant mothers in Sydney and surrounding communities.

The researchers tested the blood for contaminants that are commonly associated with Sydney's industrial past, such as PCBs, lead and mercury.

When those results were compared to numbers in other areas across Canada, researchers found the Sydney results were in the normal range.

"We all have a small amount of organochlorines in our body – PCBs, the pesticide residues – and that's not great. But in Sydney they're the same as they are in most areas," said Bruce Wainman, a toxicologist with McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., who conducted the study.

The researchers also say they didn't find any evidence of a higher rate for miscarriages or birth defects.

Francis Sirois, head of a community group that closely monitors the tar ponds, expects the study results will help to reassure many people in the area.

"There is a high level of anxiety. But in reality we have not seen disruptive impacts into the reproductive cycles, and that is excellent news," Sirois said.

A local environmentalist still has his doubts.

Bruno Marcocchio, with the Sierra Club of Canada, says this study contradicts the Dodds study from 2001, which suggested Sydney had a 25 per cent higher risk of birth defects than the rest of Nova Scotia.