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Study links Aamjiwnaang health issues with industrial pollutants

The Canadian Press reports on a new study by McGill University professor Niladri Basu that suggests mothers and children at the Aamjiwnaang First Nation are being exposed to higher-than-average levels of harmful hormone-blocking pollutants.

Barlow meets with activist Ron Plain in Aamjiwnaang.

There are 60 industrial facilities found within a 25 kilometre radius of Aamjiwnaang lands, located on the southern tip of Lake Huron. Approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s chemical industry is clustered in the area, which is why it’s often referred to as Chemical Valley.

The article notes that a survey conducted by Aamjiwnaang’s environment committee cited a number of health issues, including miscarriages, chronic headaches and asthma. Forty per cent of band members surveyed required an inhaler. Residents of Aamjiwnaang have been calling for more detailed research to further establish the connection between the pollutants and these health issues, but funding has not been forthcoming from the federal and provincial governments.

Maude Barlow has stated, “The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is surrounded on three sides by toxic-belching industries and on the fourth by a Michigan coal plant. They are grappling with high levels of cancer, headaches, numbness and many other ailments that have brought them international attention in the last decade. Their water supply has been so contaminated by the petrochemical industry that two girls are born for every boy. Under the obligation to protect – won with the United Nations recognition of the human right to water – governments must step in to ensure that third parties such as corporations or extractive industries aren’t destroying local water systems.”

Among the facilities there is Suncor Energy’s Sarnia refinery which processes 85,000 barrels of crude oil a day. According to Desmog Canada, the Imperial Oil refinery in Sarnia is currently the only refinery in eastern Canada now capable of refining bitumen. It appears that the Line 67/ Alberta Clipper pipeline (from Alberta and North Dakota) via Line 5 (the Mackinac pipeline which runs underwater at the juncture of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron), as well as Line 61 and Line 6B feed the area’s refineries.

Further reading

Council to participate in Toxic Tour in Sarnia
A visit to ‘ground zero’ of the Great Lakes

Photo: Barlow meets with activist Ron Plain in Aamjiwnaang.