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A Submission on Behalf of Physicians for Global Survival

Linda Harvey, M.D.

I have been asked to present to you, on behalf of Physicians for Global Survival, the proceedings of a press conference held yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa dealing with the uranium mining issue.

The medical community in this province, including Physicians for Global Survival, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ontario College of Family Physicians and many other practitioners, are taking this matter extremely seriously. They are very concerned about the potential for radioactive and heavy metal contamination both at the proposed mine sites and farther afield in the province of Ontario. This contamination stands to cause negative health consequences, and much avoidable suffering and expense to the citizens of Ontario, both in the near future and for generations to come as long lived radionuclides become incorporated into the environment.

The Physicians for Global Survival held a workshop recently on the issue of uranium mining and the connection between power generation and weapons, including those using depleted uranium. Attendees at the workshop were sufficiently moved by what they heard, and by the recent flurry of uranium prospecting activity at several sites in Ontario to feel a need to communicate their concerns further. Hence the press conference was put together.

The conference featured speakers from several of the areas of Ontario in which uranium mining and processing have been done in the past- Lorraine Rekmans from Elliot Lake, Faye More from Port Hope and Darlene Buckingham from Haliburton County. They each spoke on the impact the uranium industry has had on the health and well being of their communities, and how they are attempting to deal with the legacy of contamination. This brought home to us in a very real way what uranium means to the communities it touches.

The Serpent River below Elliot Lake remains contaminated along its entire length to Lake Huron. Mining activity in Haliburton/Bancroft and the Sharbot Lake areas will comtaminate two other major watersheds in populated areas of Ontario, the Trent-Severn and the Ottawa River.

As well, Dr. Scott Findlay, Ph.D., spoke on behalf of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, of which he is a board member. He is also an Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Ottawa and a visiting scientist at the Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Dr. Micheal Dworkind, President of Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and North American vice-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Associate Professor of Medicine at McGill University and consultant in Palliative Care at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, and chief instigator of the conference, presented a press release which I will now read from:

Press Release-Ottawa- April 21, 2008
Canadian Physicians Group Releases Study showing Public Health Dangers of Uranium Mining -Physicians for Global Survival calls for a moratorium on uranium mining in Ontario and Quebec.

Physicians for Global Survival (PGS) is the Canadian affiliate of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. IPPNW recently held their international meetings in New Delhi, India. The plenary presentation was a medical study of the impact of uranium mining on the public health of the local populations. The Jadugoda Uranium Study is vitally important to alert us to the dangers of the plans for uranium mining here in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

As the North American vice-president of IPPNW and an associate of the McGill Cancer Prevention Unit of McGill University and associate professor of Family Medicine and Palliative Care, I feel compelled to share these research findings with the media so that the true environmental hazards of exploration and mining of uranium can be better understood and hopefully prevented. The startling research data showing increases in cancer deaths, birth defects and premature death in the Jadugoda study group is statistically significant epidemiologically.

Scientific evidence over the last 50 years shows that radioisotopes released in uranium mine tailings are some of the most toxic elements known to man. Microgram quantities inhaled into the lung guarantee an increased incidence of lung cancer. Exposure to low dose ionizing radiation via internal emitters not only causes cancer, but also has serious teratogenic and mutagenic effects on the populations exposed. It is a tragedy that Canadian health and regulating agencies have not done population studies in places like Elliot Lake and Port Hope. With the recent lowering of allowable radon gas standards, these studies are even more timely and vitally important to public health.

PGS recommends a permanent moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in the Ottawa River watershed, to protect this source of water for now and future generations. This is a view shared by the Ottawa City Council. In fact Dr. David Salisbury, Ottawa’s Chief Health Officer, said, ”mining in Sharbot Lake could pose a health hazard to Ottawa” (February 7, 2008). The College of Family Physicians of Ontario, numerous NGO and citizen’s groups, and fifteen municipalities urge a moratorium on uranium mining. This has recently been done in the Grand Canyon watershed at the prompting of the Colorado Medical Association who called for a state wide moratorium on uranium mining to protect their aquifers. The Canadian government should do the same and protect the health of millions living in the region.

What better time than the day before Earth Day to express these concerns and protect our fragile ecosystems for generations to come.

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In addition to the presentations by the speakers, there were two letters of endorsement sent in, one by the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the other from Lanark Health and Community Services.

The medical community is taking the issue of uranium mining in populated areas of Ontario extremely seriously because of the potential health hazards to large populations and to the environment, both in the short term and for generations to come.