Cancer-causing chemical detected at above-average level in Hamilton

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Cancer-causing chemicals have spread throughout Hamilton: study
WATCH ABOVE: A new study conducted in partnership with Hamilton, U of T and Health Canada shows air pollution in Hamilton has exceeded provincial guidelines and that there are high levels of a cancer-causing chemical. Brittany Rosen has more. – Jul 13, 2023

A new study has found a cancer-causing chemical in the air in Hamilton. The research, backed by Health Canada, says the pollution could be equivalent to inhaling various degrees of cigarette smoke.

Sources from planes to automobiles and the city’s lucrative industrial sector have been a recipe for the spread of the well-known carcinogen in Hamilton.

“We expected to find it, but we only expected to find it in the industrial area where it was,” says Matthew Adams, co-ordinator of the study, done in partnership with Hamilton, the University of Toronto and Health Canada.

Adams says research has been underway for the last two years. Sixty air monitors were placed around the city to track the air quality. He says levels of carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene have spread beyond the city’s swath of metal.

Depending on how close to the industrial sector residents live, Adams says the amount of pollution can be equivalent to smoking one cigarette daily.

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“If you look at the amount of benzo(a)pyrene in a cigarette, it’s about equal to what someone near that industrial core would be breathing in worth that pollutant in a day,” he said.

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Adams says a number of cancers, like lung and liver cancer, have been linked to the carcinogen. He adds that his research team will now be focusing on gathering health data to make comparisons on cancer levels in Hamilton compared with other cities across Ontario.

Jeff Vansickle has lived in Hamilton his whole life and says he does not feel the findings of the study are cause for concern.

“It’s a lot better than it used to be,” he said.

“When I was younger, the pollution in Hamilton was so bad, in the summer on a day with no breeze, you couldn’t see a block.”

On the other hand, William Collins, who is also a longtime resident of the city, says if it were not a matter of money, he would seek to live elsewhere.

“Not possible. I’m not making that kind of money,” he told Global News.

At a news conference Thursday, Premier Doug Ford was asked whether his government would end provincial industry air quality exemptions.

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“I’m going to have to look more into that,” he said.

Ford added that his government was making environment-related investments.

“We’re putting hundreds of millions of dollars to get electric arc furnaces not only here in Hamilton, but up in Algoma.

“That’s like taking two million cars off the road.”

Health Canada tells Global News residents in Hamilton are advised to regularly check the Air Quality Health Index, and from there determine whether or not they need to minimize their exposure outside.

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