It’s possible birth ratios may be normalizing at Aamjiwnaang after disturbing evidence suggested in the 1990s far more girls than boys were being born on the First Nation.
“I’ve been told it’s levelling out to where it should be,” said Sharilyn Johnston, the Aamjiwnaang’s environmental co-ordinator. “Right now, it doesn’t look like we have that same skewing.”
Johnston made the comment while answering questions at a recent Green Drinks forum attended by about 50 people at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community Centre.
In the mid ‘90s, federal census data revealed twice as many girls were being born at Aamjiwnaang. The normal is about 105 boys born for every 100 girls.
The First Nation lies within Sarnia’s boundaries and is all but surrounded by heavy industry, and the skewed birthrate drew national and international media attention.
Scientists were at odds, with some suggesting gender-bending chemicals in the environment were responsible, while others said the numbers might be explained by normal variations in such a small population sample.
No study has been undertaken since then but the story continues to circulate.
Johnston said she has spoken to one of the original scientific advisors consulted about the skewed birth rates and he is interested in looking at it again.
“Maybe it occurred while there was one industry that’s gone now,” she suggested.
But she cautioned her comments were based on anecdotal evidence only and have no scientific foundation.
Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers said she was surprised to hear the number of baby boys may have increased.
“There’s been no data collected and there’s nothing on the table about it,” she said. “The idea that it could reverse itself is interesting.
“It’s something we could look at,” Rogers said.
Band council may soon have some new information, said community information officer Sandy Waring.
“I believe our health department has a related report that is going to council soon,” she said.
Johnston said while she’s hopeful the birth ratio is “levelling out,” she noted the band still has many pressing concerns related to Chemical Valley emissions.
“I still say we have a benzene issue,” she said. “It’s a carcinogen and, until it’s addressed, I won’t say we’re cleaning up or getting better.
“And we still suffer from asthma. There is still particulate in the air.”
Aamjiwnaang is surrounded by 60 industrial facilities within a 25-kilometre radius.