As research shows carcinogens in their children’s bodies, people in Rouyn-Noranda are demanding more loudly that the local copper smelter – long exempt from provincial emissions rules – should clean up its act
Ethan Valois is eight now, and the arsenic levels in his body have started to come down. He and his parents live in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., home to a copper smelter that emits the known carcinogen at levels about 30 times higher than the provincial limit.
For decades, residents didn’t think much of this fact. La fonderie Horne was simply part of the landscape for the city’s 40,000 residents – as immovable as a mountain.
As provincial standards for heavy metal contamination were revised, however, public health authorities decided to find out whether the dangerous emissions produced by the smelter were lingering in residents’ bodies.
Studies in 2018 and 2019 took fingernail clippings from children living in the Notre-Dame neighbourhood, adjacent to the smelter. The results revealed that local kids had four times as much arsenic in their systems as the control population in a neighbouring town.
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