Diary of Unknown Symptoms

Mystery of the Internal Vibration

Entry for June 16, 2006


I google Dr. Riina Bray tonight just to see if I can find any recent news articles and I come across a transcript from the Legislative Assembly in Ontario.

Monday 6 June 2005

The Chair (Mr. Bob Delaney): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. We are here to consider Bill 133, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act in respect of enforcement and other matters.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Perth-Middlesex): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning.

Your subcommittee on committee business met on Thursday, June 2, 2005, to consider the method of proceeding on Bill 133, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act in respect of enforcement and other matters, and recommends the following:

(1) That the committee meet for the purpose of holding public hearings on Bill 133 at Queen’s Park as follows: Monday, June 6, 2005, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, subject to witness requests and the direction of the Chair.

(2) That the clerk of the committee post notice of hearings as soon as possible on the Ontario parliamentary channel and on the Internet.

(3) That the deadline for receipt of requests to appear be 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 3, 2005.

(4) That the following be invited to appear before the committee as witnesses: David Donnelly, Environmental Defence Canada; Chris Hodgson, Ontario Mining Association; Robert Wright, Sierra Legal Defence Fund; Paul Muldoon, Canadian Environmental Law Association; Mark Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper; Faith Goodman, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute; Dr. Riina Bray, Ontario College of Family Physicians; Lisa Kozma, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters or Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers\’ Association; Honourable Perrin Beatty and David Surplis, Coalition for a Sustainable Environment.

(5) That notice of the hearings be provided to the witnesses that previously appeared before the committee on Bill 133.

(6) That the length of presentations for witnesses be 10 minutes.

(7) That each of the three parties be allowed to make an opening statement of up to four minutes, subject to availability of time and at the direction of the Chair.

(8) That the committee clerk, at the direction of the Chair, be authorized to schedule witnesses.

(9) That the deadline for written submissions be 12:00 noon on Monday, June 6, 2005.

(10) That proposed amendments to be moved during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill should be filed with the clerk of the committee by 2:00 p.m. on Monday, June 6, 2005.

(11) That clause-by-clause consideration of the bill commence at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, June 6, 2005.

(12) That the clerk of the committee, in consultation with the Chair, be authorized prior to the adoption of the report of the subcommittee to commence making any preliminary arrangements to facilitate the committee’s proceedings.

Dr. Bray: My name is Riina Bray. I’m a family physician, assistant professor at the Environmental Health Clinic at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. I’m also chair of the environmental health committee at the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

I much appreciate the opportunity today to address this committee on the important issue of Bill 133.

In its final report on spills, the government’s Industrial Pollution Action Team dispelled any myths about Ontario’s international leadership in this arena by concluding, “It was our impression that Ontario’s regulatory system has not kept pace with progressive jurisdictions elsewhere in the world, which employ a more diverse management tool kit and a risk-based approach.”

The action team’s report also stated that there is a need for substantive change in Ontario’s environmental management framework, and that “despite its best intentions, the current system does not encourage pollution or spills prevention.”

These spills are often referred to as “environmental contaminants,” but please remember that they are also human contaminants. Physicians tend not to use such terms, so I’d like to speak plainly about the topic at hand. What we’re talking about in most cases here are poisons, and it’s important not to forget that.

In his submission to this committee, Dr. David Colby, the medical officer of health for Chatham-Kent, told you that Bill 133 is essential to improving the health and safety of his community. There is certainly an immediate impact on southwestern Ontario because of the preponderance of spills, but this bill affects or has the potential to affect our patients throughout the province.

Much has been made of the inequitable financial burden that environmental penalties place on industrial facilities, but although physicians’ primary interest is in the health of our patients, it is important for you to know that there are two sides to this cost argument as well.

As the action team’s report stated, “Downstream communities are not recouping the full costs of spills.”

When public health warnings such as boil-water advisories are issued, expenses are immediately incurred. Even when there are no such warnings, parents, concerned for their children’s well-being, take precautionary measures, like drinking only bottled water, when there is news of a spill or when spills are frequent. They too incur immediate costs. It is also likely that a populace more fearful of environmental contamination is more costly to government because they more frequently seek medical attention from their physicians and other health care providers.

In addition to this, there’s a huge hidden cost that will present itself later on with the impact of contaminants on unborn children, pregnant women and young children who experience exposures which can manifest later with neuro-behavioural problems, costing billions of dollars to the nation. This has been shown in many scientific reports that are available.

Also, cancers from chronic exposure to contaminants in the young and in the old obviously pose a huge health care cost to our country.

Also, we must consider the immuno-compromised, the infirm, the elderly and those suffering from reproductive problems, and the link that has been shown there with contaminants.

On the topic of added governmental costs, it is certainly the case that significant improvements to spills notification systems and response systems, which have predictive capacities to identify specific public health vulnerabilities, all cost a lot of money, too. Tracking health threats once they exist is absolutely important, but it is certainly better and cheaper to prevent spills in the first place.

I learned a long time ago that preventive medicine is a much healthier approach than waiting to develop a treatment strategy once the threat has been introduced, be it a disease or a chemical contaminant. It’s also much cheaper.

Honourable committee members, we understand that the government is required to balance the interests of many when making legislative decisions. Just to clarify, that is not to say that we think health interests are special interests, as some would suggest; although it is my view that health interests should be treated more specially than some industrial interests.

To the business at hand: It is obvious that some companies are not complying with Ontario’s environmental laws. As well as threatening their surrounding communities and potentially those far downstream, this non-compliance gives the lawbreakers an unfair advantage over their competitors who do comply. Environmental penalties send the message to those who haven\’t gotten it yet that compliance is the bare minimum of acceptability and that there is a cost and a consequence for not living up to the law.

As a physician, I cannot claim to be an expert in legal compliance issues, but it is clear to me that enforcing compliance is a move in the right direction toward protecting the health of our patients.

We think that the current amendments to Bill 133 from the second reading last week are a reasonable balance of interests, and I would like to support the bill in its amended form.

As Dr. Colby reminded this committee, spills cannot be the cost of doing business; protecting the health of Ontarians must come first.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

The Chair: Thank you for coming in. We should have an opportunity for a question from each caucus to you, beginning with Mr. Marchese.

Mr. Marchese: Thank you, Dr. Bray, for coming.

The Chair: Mrs. Van Bommel.

Mrs. Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): Thank you, Chair, and thank you for coming in. I hope that you catch your breath. You still sound a bit out of breath.

You mentioned the Industrial Pollution Action Team and the recommendations that they made. One of the things that we’ve heard since then are concerns that industries in the Sarnia area have expressed about having to comply and the comments that they’ve made about having to leave the area if they have to comply with certain restrictions. They’re talking about moving to other jurisdictions, including other provinces in Canada. With that comes the concerns about jobs. How would you address that kind of thing?

Dr. Bray: I get a lot of dialogue coming from Sarnia with regard to environmental contaminants and illness and disease. If they want to move elsewhere, then kudos to them.

I think we need to think of the health care costs, because if you look at the epidemiology right now and the illness that is hitting Sarnia — I don’t know if you know, but Sarnia is it’s a particularly sick community. We get patients who are very, very disabled coming from that area. There are studies showing that childhood illness and cancers are much higher geographically than the rest of Ontario. It’s a sick community, and I would say that, dollar for dollar, you’re going to save money in the end.

Jobs are important, but when you think of the future generations and the unborn etc., I really don’t think we should be making a comparison there. If you want to, I would say that I think we need to put the health of people first, and jobs will come second. Otherwise, people are going to have jobs and then they’ll have to go on disability or they’re going to lose loved ones. The cost of suffering is going to be huge. There have to be alternatives for them.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Mr. Miller.

Mr. Miller: Thank you for coming in today. You mentioned at the beginning of your talk, the report of the Industrial Pollution Action Team. In that report it said, “Despite its best intentions, the current system does not encourage pollution or spills prevention, or the regular updating of technology and operating systems.”

I think that you also went on to say that you believe in preventive medicine, if I heard you correctly.

We\’ve also heard from industry here today that they would like to see more science-based and risk-based provisions in this bill.

Do you think we should be doing more to encourage spills prevention and pollution prevention plans?

Dr. Bray: Yes, I do. I think you can do more studies, I think more studies are always warranted, but you have to be careful and consider the precautionary principle. It doesn’t require too much thought when you have a mass balance and you look at what’s going into the environment. It has to go somewhere, and you just sort of follow it through.

I think that scientific investigation shouldn’t be an excuse to continue doing what they’re doing. It shouldn’t be something that prevents them from making the correction sooner than later. I think of the precautionary principle again here.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming in. I’m sorry that you had a wicked commute, but you did have the last word today.

Dr. Bray: Thank you, and I hope I’ve been helpful.

The Chair: This committee stands in recess until clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 133 today at 4 p.m. in this room.

Wow! I wonder what is making people sick in Sarnia? I use Google Earth to get an overview of the city and there is one section of the town that looks like an oil refinery. Yup, Imperial Oil. And it’s so big it’s almost half the size of Sarnia itself!

Fuels Manufacturing

When the Sarnia refinery was commissioned in 1897, it was the largest refinery in Canada, with a capacity of 900 barrels of crude oil processing a day. Today, the refinery is one of the most complex in Canada. Since the mid-1980s, significant improvements at a number of process units have increased the refinery’s ability to process a wide range of crude oil into quality petroleum products.

Imperial’s Sarnia operation is the most integrated fuels, lubricating oil and chemicals manufacturing and petroleum research facility in Canada.

June 16, 2006 - Posted by | Health | , , , , ,

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