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Higher cancer rates found in Edmonton residential area near creosote site


EDMONTON – The Alberta government says soil sample tests at a former wood-treatment facility confirm there are hazards to human health.

The province had issued health and environmental orders last March to protect people in the residential area of northeast Edmonton who live near the creosote plant.

Creosote is a mass of hundreds of chemicals that are used to preserve wood.

The province says in a news release that comprehensive surface and sub-surface soil data shows some samples with contamination levels that exceed human health guidelines for dioxins and furans.

Alberta Health has taken a preliminary look at rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

It found that three types of cancer are higher than usual in the area.

Of the people who lived in the area for 10 or more years, the health department found there have been more cases of breast cancer and endometrial cancer in women and lung cancer in men.

Officials say there hasn’t been any difference in childhood cancers compared to other parts of the province.

“This data on its own does not indicate why there are higher rates for these three types of cancer in the area,” says a news release Thursday. “Many factors could contribute to an increased risk of cancer, including but not limited to medical history, medication use and tobacco use.”

Alberta Health says it will work with federal experts to try to identify what might have contributed to higher rates of the three cancers.

“As a precautionary measure, women who have lived in the area for 10 or more years should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of starting breast cancer screening at the age of 40,” says the release.

The province also says residents should continue to stay out of the restricted area.

“Remediation of areas of specific concern will begin once ground conditions improve in the spring.”

Domtar, the former owner of the site, has previously been ordered to take part in the cleanup.

The government has said Domtar operated the plant between 1924 and 1987, then sold it in 2010.

Copyright (c) 2019 The Canadian Press