14 hours ago
A recent air sample taken in south
Sarnia on a day when there were no odours and no reports of an accidental
release still contained "scary" levels of chemicals, say members of
the Aamjiwnaang First Nation's so-called bucket brigade.
Ada Lockridge is chairperson of the
Aamjiwnaang environmental committee and helped obtain the sample on March 10 at
the native cemetery on South Vidal Street.
Among the compounds present was
carbon disulphide, listed in the U.S. as a pollutant that can interfere with
the reproductive system. "That's the most damning part of this
sample," said Denny Larson of the Global Community Monitor, a non-profit
organization that supplied the sampling equipment.
"It's pretty shocking when you
know there are skewed birth sex ratios on the Aamjiwnaang," he said.
"We were shocked and
disappointed that even on a good day our air contains high levels of
reproductive toxins," said Vicki Ware, who assisted with the sampling.
The air was tested at a time when
there was no smells and no flaring in Chemical Valley, Lockridge said. "We
wanted to have a background sample so we could compare when there is an
The air in Sarnia was classified as
"good" on Ontario's Air Quality Index on March 10.
Tests for 88 different chemicals
performed by a California lab revealed the presence of six chemicals, according
to a report released Thursday by Global Community Monitoring and Ecojustice,
formerly the Sierra Club.
Carbon disulphide was present at 41
micrograms per cubic metre, an amount that is 17 times the acceptable long-term
exposure standard for health effects in the State of Texas.
Larson said American standards had
to be used because there are no health screening standards in Canada for the
"Without regulations, people
are breathing it in and there's no place to report it," he said.
Ontario requires facilities to
report releases of these chemicals if they release more than 10 tonnes a year,
said Elaine MacDonald of Ecojustice.
But the density of industrial polluters
in Sarnia means there could be an accumulative effect.
"This clearly highlights the
need for better reporting of toxic releases from industry in Sarnia and across
the country," she said. "It's really scary that anyone driving
through Chemical Valley can't know what they are exposing themselves to,"
Lockridge said. "I never heard of any of these chemicals. I can't even
pronounce some of them."
Tests also confirmed the presence
carbonyl sulphide, at 44 micrograms
per cubic metre, a colourless gas that's a byproduct of petroleum refining and
coal burning. Exceeds Texas short-term health effects screening levels by six
Isopropyl Alcohol, 11 micrograms per
cubic metre, considered a low level.
Ethanol, 130 micrograms per cubic
metre, low level of gasoline additive.
d-Limonene, 6.4 micrograms, low
level of industrial solvent.
micrograms per cubic metre, used in synthetic rubber manufacturing.
The sample had to be sent to an
American lab because Canadian labs don't test for those chemicals, said Larson.
"There's no federal standards
for them so no one is driven to do the tests."
It costs the Aamjiwnaang $550 each
time they get a sample tested, Lockridge said.
Though it's expensive, the band
intends to continue testing at various locations on the reserve.
"We're always told there's no
off-site impacts," Lockridge said. "We're not getting a response from
anyone when we complain so we're doing it ourselves."
© 2008 The Sarnia Observer