June 26, 2006

Follow-up sampling confirms results of 2005 Belledune health risk study

The results of the Belledune area environmental sampling study, conducted by the independent firm of Jacques Whitford Environmental, have validated the human health risk assessment findings of the original Belledune area health study released in May 2005, New Brunswick Health Minister Brad Green reported recently. The study analyzed data from samples of finfish, mollusks, garden soil and garden produce collected as a follow-up to the initial Belledune area health study in order to obtain more current data.

The original study concluded that past industrial activity had contributed to higher concentrations of lead and, to a lesser extent, cadmium in the study area. Emissions of lead and cadmium were at their highest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but have been significantly reduced since that time, the study said, adding that the average human exposure to lead and cadmium in most of the study area was within safe limits.

The main results of the follow-up study are summarized below.

*Lead concentrations in garden soil from 84% (62 of 74) properties sampled were within guidelines established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME). Of the 12 properties that exceeded the CCME guidelines, the study said lead concentrations in 13 garden samples would pose no health risk if simple precautions are taken, such as washing hands thoroughly after working in the garden. On one property, one of three samples taken tested considerably above the CCME guideline, while the other two samples from the property were much lower. This property will be re-sampled to validate the results.

*Cadmium concentrations in all garden soils tested were well below the CCME guidelines of 10 mg/kg, except for one sample which had a slightly elevated cadmium concentration of 10.2 mg/kg.

*Lead and cadmium levels found in 446 samples of garden produce from the Belledune study area were compared with those in 84 produce samples taken from the Fredericton area. Most of the sampled vegetables and fruit in the greater Belledune area had higher levels of lead and cadmium than those from the Fredericton area, but were still within acceptable limits. With a few exceptions, the lead and cadmium levels were significantly lower than the average estimated concentrations found in the original Belledune Area Health Study.

*The study also sampled 102 finfish and 36 bivalve mollusks from the near-shore and intertidal areas within the greater Belledune area. Test results indicate that fish consumption is not a major exposure pathway for lead and cadmium. The main exposure pathway for both compounds is wild mussel consumption; this finding is similar to that of the 2005 study. Federal regulations currently prohibit the harvesting of wild mussels in the area.

Complete results from the Belledune area environmental sampling study conducted by Jacques Whitford may be viewed on-line at www.gnb.ca/0208/pdf/Belledune_Report_English_Final_April%02021,%202006_Revised.pdf.

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