A comprehensive cancer report, released two years ago by the Algoma Public Health, showed that the mortality rates and incidents of cancer were more predominant in the Algoma region as compared to the province, or even the country, but the articles that came out about the report did not search for answers as to why this is occurring. Hopefully this article will shed some light.
Heavy industry seems to be a major link locally and around the world.
The World Cancer Research Fund International ranked Canada 12th for rates of cancer, that’s 295.7 cases per 100,000 people.
One of the key findings in the Algoma region reveals there were 7,534 newly diagnosed cases of cancer in Algoma over the 10-year period, which is an average of 753 per year.
The age standardized mortality rate for all cancers was 186.3 deaths per 100,000 in Algoma, compared to the provincial rate of 165.3 per 100,000.
Algoma’s age standardized rate for all cancers was 427.6 per 100,000 people, compared to 410.2 in the province.
Incidents of lung and bronchus cancer in the region were not statistically different compared to peer groups, but they were higher than the provincial rate, 64.7 new cases per 100,000 compared to 52.5 in Ontario.
These rates are drastically higher than the rest of the world.
In fact the CancerAtlas.org directly correlated lung cancer with causes such as aluminum production, arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds which are most often associated with mining, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, coke production for steel industry, hematite mining, iron and steel founding, and nickel.
Tailings (a by-product of metallic ore processing) is a high-volume waste that can contain harmful quantities of toxic substances, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and cyanide (if cyanide leaching is used). Although it is rarely the environmentally-preferable option, most mining companies dispose of tailings by mixing them with water (to form a slurry) and disposing of the slurry behind a tall dam in a large wet tailings impoundment. Because the ore is usually extracted as a slurry, the resulting waste contains large amounts of water, and generally forms ponds at the top of the tailings dams that can be a threat to wildlife. Cyanide tailings in precious metals mines are particularly dangerous.
With the amount of abandoned mines in the Algoma region, the harsh bi-products of mining may be showing their affects today in the form of carcinoma.
There was the Algoma Galena Mine off the Searchmont Highway. There is the Algomont Mine north of Leslie Lake.
They mined copper off of Chiblow Lake Road. There was the Bi-Ore Mine that also held copper along with the Bruce Mine, Tarbutt, Rock Lake and the list goes on and on.
The copper mining was unhealthy for the environment because of the after-affects of the extraction process.
Soil and rocks that are moved out of the way to get to ore are called “overburden.” In areas where there are high concentrations of radionuclides in the rock, overburden may have some enhanced radioactivity. The ore is crushed, mixed with other low-grade ore, and chemically leached to remove the copper.
During the leaching process, weak acids are allowed to seep through copper-bearing rocks dissolving copper and any radionuclides present in the soil. The leached liquid containing the dissolved copper, known as a pregnant leach solution (PLS), is later collected and further processed to extract the copper.
The liquid leachate may lead to contamination in the surrounding environment by seeping into the ground water at abandoned and active copper mining sites according to the Environmentla Protection Agency.
And this is just what our many, many local copper mines and abandoned veins have possibly left for us in the Algoma region.
Looking wider at the world picture, it is a strange coincidence that countries where heavy industry and mining are present there are also the highest rates of cancer in the world.
Ahead of Canada in the top 12 for world cancer rates was Slovenia with 296.3 cases per 100,00 people, New Caledonia with 297.9, The Netherlands with 304.8, Republic of Korea with 307.8, Ireland with 307.9, The United States with 318, Norway with 318.3, Belgium with 321.1, Australia was 3rd with 323, France was 2nd with 324.6 and Denmark ranked first with 338.1.
When you look at the heavy industry and mining in the world, these stats start to correlate.
Canada is ranked 3rd in the world for aluminum production with 2920 metric tonnes per year. Right behind them is Austrailia with 1950 tonnes. The Unites States is 5th with 1720 tonnes and Norway is 10th with 800 tonnes.
Canada is ranked 5th in asbestos production with 100,000 metric tonnes per year.
Korea is ranked second in cadmium production with 3200 metric tonnes per year. Canada is ranked 5th with 1500, the United States is 10th with 650 and the Netherlands are 11th with 600 metric tonnes per year.
Canada is ranked 7th in cobalt production with New Caledonia right behind.
Australia is second in iron production with the United States following in 8th spot and Canada in 9th.
The United States ranks 3rd in crude steel production with South Korea 6th, and France 14th.
South Korea ranks 6th in pig iron production with the United States holding 8th spot and France 10th.
The Industrial production growth of many of these 12 countries has been moderate to high with 4-8 per cent growth in the recent years.
In 2012 there was a study done in Spain called “Proximity to mining industry and cancer mortality,” done by the Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology Unit at the National Center for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health in Spain. Excess mortality (relative risk, 95% credible interval) of colorectal cancer, lung cancer specifically related with proximity to opencast coal mining, bladder cancer and leukemia related with other opencast mining installations, was detected among the overall population in the vicinity of mining installations. Other tumors also associated in the stratified analysis by type of mine, were: thyroid, gallbladder and liver cancers (underground coal installations); brain cancer (opencast coal mining); stomach cancer (coal and other opencast mining installations); and myeloma (underground mining installations). The results suggested an association between risk of dying due to digestive, respiratory, hematologic and thyroid cancers and proximity to Spanish mining industries.
Now that’s coal mining. Let’s see if there were any more studies done.
The same group did another study called “Leukemia-related mortality in towns lying in the vicinity of metal production and processing installations.”
What they found was that within a 50-kilometer radius of these plants, on stratifying by type of industrial activity, statistically significant associations were also observed among women residing in the vicinity of galvanizing installations and surface-treatment installations using an electrolytic or chemical process, which released pollution to air.
There was an effect whereby risk increased with proximity to certain installations.
A quick look at mining and heavy industry in these 12 countries shows a loaded map in almost every country with the exception of France. France ranks high because of its incidence of breast cancer, which is at some of the highest rates in the world. Belgium Denmark, The United States, Ireland and the Netherlands were in the top 10 also.