Researchers are ‘excited’ to see the province moving forward with a long-stalled comprehensive community health study this fall.
“We’re not the first ones to say ‘it looks like there is something happening,’” Dr. Ivan Litvinov told the Journal, referring to a study released last week revealing significantly higher blood cancer rates in Sarnia and the link between acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and benzene exposure.
“Otherwise, why would they ever think about doing a health study in Sarnia?” added the report’s lead researcher. “Our study is just a brick in a house that we’re all trying to build. This is one piece of information that people need to consider.”
Local residents and the Sarnia Lambton Environmental Association have talked for decades about a health study – exploring the impact of industrial emissions on human health – but the process stalled.
Gary Wheeler, spokesperson with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, confirmed the study will begin this fall.
The Sarnia Area Environmental Health Project is meant to “address concerns of local residents about air contaminants and quality of life impacts associated with living close to industrial facilities in the Sarnia area,” Wheeler wrote in an email to the Journal.
The two-year study is expected to cost about $2 million, he said.
The ministry has also developed a Sarnia Air Action Plan with a goal to reduce air borne pollutants like benzene and sulphur dioxide.
The Plan will focus on compliance and inspections on heavy industry, including petroleum refining and petrochemical companies that emit benzene and sulphur, the ministry said.
Benzene levels in the Sarnia area are approximately one third of what they were 25 years ago, Wheeler added.