Lower air quality would lead to more deaths - InfoNews

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Lower air quality would lead to more deaths

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July 04, 2013 - 1:06 PM

KAMLOOPS – Sitting at an average level of nine in 2.5 particulate matter levels Kamloops is below the maximum level the World Health Organization says is healthy but well above the standard the province has set.

The doctors making up the Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment say studies show that PM 2.5, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres and 100 times thinner than human hair, has a great impact on human health. These particles are likely to be more toxic and can be solid or liquid droplets that can penetrate into the lungs, heart and blood system, causing heart disease, stroke, some cancers and premature death.

For every 10 points (micrograms per cubic meter of air) of increase in PM 2.5 studies show about a 14 per cent increase in mortality, in Kamloops that would translate to an estimated 11 additional deaths every year based on just a single point increase in air pollution.

"Even areas that meet the national standard of 'good' air quality may not be good enough. Scientists have found that low levels of particulate matter in the air can heighten the risk of lung and heart disease." according the to the BC Air Quality website.

Doctors Twila Burgmann and Jill Calder say based on the studies they have seen (and shared on the KPHE website) it should not be acceptable to place an open pit mine at such a close proximity to the city as the proposed Ajax mine would be. The short and long-term negative health impacts on the people of Kamloops would be too great and too costly to even consider the mine, they say.

The proximity, which is one of the biggest factors in the doctor's opposition to the mine, is unprecedented in the province and as a result the environmental assessment process is not designed to properly look at the health impacts on a nearby community.

In B.C. the current maximum level of PM 2.5 is eight though the province is pushing towards a goal of six. Because of the inversion of the valley in Kamloops the level can vary greatly depending on the weather conditions and this is one of the reasons the group fears the current assessment process is not properly reflecting local conditions.

This concern for the health of the community is why they are part of the physician group currently advocating for an official health impact assessment of the proposed mine. The group is worried because the testing range of the particulate samplings (dust fall is being collected by placing little cups on the ground to collect whatever may fall into them and weighing the cups for monitoring purposes) is not covering a wide enough range and does not give an accurate reflection of what the impact will be from the particulates.

“We want a process that will give us real data. (The current one) was never designed for urban mining.” Burgmann says, “The process is not doing what it should to protect us.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email jstahn@infotelnews.ca, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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