Monthly Archives: July 2011

Walk to remember asbestos victims, push Ottawa on exports

Paul Morden in The Observer

It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who inspired Leah Nielsen and Stacy Cattran to take action.

The sisters became angry after seeing Harper tout his government’s support for the asbestos industry while campaigning this spring in Asbestos, Que., home of the Jeffrey asbestos mine.

Three years ago the sisters’ father, Bill Coulbeck, died at age 72 of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a material restricted in Canada but still mined in Quebec and exported mostly to developing nations.

“We need to stop exporting it and we need to stop producing it in Canada,” Nielsen said.

“Because there’s no doubt about it, you can’t refute the facts, the evidence is there — it causes cancer.”

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Radon threats are grounds for precaution

An extended version of a statement that Toban Black and Robert Cory wrote for The Observer

Chemical Valley industries are arranging to use shale gas supplies that very likely could be contaminated with radon, given how these gas feedstocks are extracted through fracking — a technique that is used to retrieve gas from shale rock located very deep underground. Two Texas companies have agreed to send this shale gas from the northeastern United States to the Nova Chemical plant in Sarnia, and there is wider industry support for these imports of gas from fracking.

For the sake of the health and safety of the residents of Sarnia-Lambton — and others around the region — it is important that we apply the precautionary principle to this issue. We should assume that shale gas could come with radon contamination, if we cannot prove otherwise.

This gas is from shale that often contains significant quantities of uranium, as well as the products of its radioactive decay, including radium and radon, a colourless, odourless, and intensely radioactive gas. Because it is common in many rock formations throughout North America and elsewhere, radon is responsible for most of our daily exposure to damaging radiation. Radon gas that seeps up from subterranean rock formations often accumulates in basements — sometimes resulting in dangerous levels. Lung cancer caused by breathing radon contaminated air already is estimated to cause 25,000 deaths per year in the United States alone and is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.

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