Tar Ponds dust study profiled in environmental health journal

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

A study that sampled dust in homes near the tar ponds and coke ovens gained international recognition in a journal of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Published in the January edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, author Tim Lambert said he hopes the communities of Whitney Pier, Ashby and Sydney's North End will now be included during the planned remediation of the toxic sites.

"So far they have been excluded from being considered for remediation as part of the tar ponds policy," said Lambert. "That's the key thing that needs to happen."

Lambert, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary, said the publication includes work he announced in Sydney in April, 2003, on behalf of the People's Health Commission and the Sierra Club of Canada.

As well, he added information on background soil samples taken from five to 20 kilometres from the contaminated site to compare to the three communities.

That information, he says, proves the surrounding communities were statistically different from the background samples.

Twenty per cent of the background soil samples and 95 per cent of the tar pond soil samples were above the Canadian health-risk-based soil guidelines for arsenic.

As well, five per cent of the background samples and 80 per cent of samples from the three communities were above national guidelines for lead. "The paper has been peer reviewed in the leading journal for this area," said Lambert.

His study showed that lead and arsenic particles were found in the floor dust of every home evaluated in Whitney Pier, Ashby and the North End, and could pose a health risk to children. His information also showed that tested areas were polluted with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Lambert, who is the chair of the scientific advisory board of the People's Health Commission, earlier said residents with children should monitor their play activity to ensure they do not eat the soil in their yards. He reiterated those comments Tuesday.

The federal and provincial governments have tested children surrounding the site for lead and arsenic. "Not one child had elevated levels of lead," said Parker Donham, spokesperson for the provincial Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. "Not one single child." Some children were found to have arsenic in their system, but follow-up testing showed lower levels.

Donham said releasing the information for a third time is "outrageous."
"It would be like saying you better check to make sure there's no cream in your coffee when you already drank your coffee and it was black," said Donham. "What people in Sydney are sick of is fear mongering by Elizabeth May (president of the Sierra Club) and the Sierra Club."