• Testimony of Dr. Hirsch: an excerpt from the transcript
of the hearing of the Environmental Appeal Board in Powell River, B.C.,
July 7, 1999, in the matter of Fleischer, et al, and Assistant Regional
Waste Manager and Pacifica Papers Inc.
Living near pulp and paper mills carries with it a sense of being
Few of us know what the risks are.
Knowing how to create change can be daunting.
This presentation will attempt to answer some of those questions.
Pulp Mills Can Impact Human Health
Proving direct cause
and effect relationships between environmental exposures and specific
diseases is difficult, but there are many good reasons for concern.
Air pollution and health links
Contamination of food through air and water
Health Risks associated with known pulp
So, what are the potential health risks from this type of pollution?
Our research indicates that the main health risks associated with known
pulp mill pollutants fall into five main categories. They are listed,
with brief descriptions, below.
Asthma and Other Lung Diseases - illnesses where the ability
to breathe is damaged and the lungs no longer function fully.
Cancer - many chemicals in pulp mill pollution are linked to
increased risk of contracting a wide variety of cancers. The World Health
Organization estimates that 80% of cancers are caused by occupational
or environmental factors, including exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Reproductive and Hormone Problems - human infertility, changes
in sex ratio (number of males and females) in various species, salmon
losing the ability to find their spawning stream: These effects are
the result of pollutants mimicking natural hormones in humans and animals.
Learning Disabilities - show up as everything from slowed learning
times to severe retardation. Some of the chemicals in pulp mill pollution
have been linked to increased occurrence.
Other Health Effects - include heart disease, immune system
damage, and chemical sensitivity (severe allergic reactions).
Some of these effects are only proven in animals, but enough evidence
exists to make human effects a valid concern.
How do we know what the health effects are?
Reach for Unbleached! bases its concerns on reliable science.
Examples of several places where information can be found:
Reach for Unbleached! has a database with abstracts from
selected articles about pulp mill pollution, technology and
health effects. We participate in federal assessments of toxic chemicals
and follow new science discoveries.
a web site run by Environmental
Defense in the USA. From this page health and environmental
effects can be found for most chemicals used intentionally,
or created as waste.
a tool for researching mill pollution. Emissions are
ranked as to relative danger for cancer, reproductive effects,
lung diseases and other health impacts.
Government Agencies: There are many. Two very useful ones are North
American Commission on Economic Cooperation (CEC) - Pollutants
Program and EUROHEIS:
A European Health and Environment Information System for Disease
and Exposure Mapping and Risk Assessment.
Environmental Alliance Society is a non-profit organisation
that has excellent presentations on environmental links to
diseases caused by endocrine
Who Is Affected?
Workers are highly exposed.
Members of ethnic groups with fish-eating cultures
Fishermen and other people from coastal communities
Recreational fishers who eat their catch
People of the First Nations
Neighbours and communities also suffer the effects.
Children and the elderly are most vulnerable.
Key Pulp Mill Pollutants Affecting Health
We chose five pollutants to focus on, there are others. We made our
The following pollutants are common to many mills.
They are emitted in significant quantities and reported to government
Their effects are well-documented, although not always from direct
studies in pulp mills.
Mills can address these emissions and still afford to make paper.
Key Pulp Mill Pollutants Affecting Health
Particulate Matter (PM2.5): tiny airborne particles - small
but deadly in lungs, linked to asthma and heart disease.
Dioxin: going into air, land, and water - toxic in minute amounts;
linked to cancer, diabetes, learning disabilities, and other illnesses.
Chlorine/Chlorine Dioxide Gas: cause or worsen lung disease;
react to form organochlorines which are linked to cancer, hormone problems
and reproductive ailments.
Hydrogen Sulphide: a gas linked to damage of immune systems,
respiratory problems and chemical sensitivity.
Formaldehyde and Acetaldehyde: hundreds of tonnes of these
cancer causing by-products are released into air and water yearly.
How do we know what comes out?
We must primarily rely on self reporting by the mills to provincial
and federal agencies.
Reach for Unbleached! has compiled data from public sources on
what pollution comes
out, and in
what quantities in BC.
The Crofton Airshed has been the subject of reports both from company
consultants and those working with Reach for Unbleached and the Crofton
Airshed Citizens' Group. These reports contain some information.
Reach for Unbleached has worked with citizens to do some volunteer
monitoring, which showed some interesting results.
Here are some other good sources that anyone can use
to research pollution from their local mill.
Watch: This valuable tool allows you to search by
a particular pollutant, by a specific mill, or by geographical region.
It has incredibly useful charts on the relative pollution impacts
from various facilities and can be sorted by type of health effect.