Personal attack suggests attempt to avoid substance of dust issue

Letter to the editor from Elizabeth May
Cape Breton Post
Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004

Parker Donham attacked me personally in response to a study that I didn't write or research. (Tar Ponds dust study profiled in environmental health journal, Feb. 25)

The scientific study on the levels of arsenic and lead in household dust in Ashby, the North End and Whitney Pier was conducted by Dr. Timothy Lambert from the University of Calgary. The dust samples were analyzed by the Environmental Services lab in Cape Breton. The study was initially peer reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Board to the Peoples Health Commission. The study was then submitted to the prestigious international journal, "Environmental Health Perspectives." The study and its conclusion, that children in Sydney faced a risk from the household dust levels of lead and arsenic, was accepted as valid and publishable by objective scientific reviewers with no connection to Dr. Lambert, the Peoples Health Commission or the Sierra Club of Canada.

Neither I nor the Sierra Club of Canada have any motive for the "fear mongering" of which the former journalist accuses us. Sydney residents have extremely high levels of a range of diseases, including a wide variety of cancers, linked to toxic substances. Yet, the political masters who pay Mr. Donham saw fit to deny any connection and blame people's lifestyle.

When someone sinks to personal attacks instead of responding to the important questions (particularly "why did the government not conduct studies that are routine in other jurisdictions?"), it suggests they hope to distract people from the substance.

Elizabeth May
Executive Director
Sierra Club of Canada