Horacio Arruda prevented the dissemination of cancer data in Rouyn-Noranda | Arsenic Rouyn-Noranda

The recent data on the state of health of the population released last May have worried many. We learned that the percentage of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases is higher than the provincial average, that the incidence of lung cancer is significantly higher and that low birth weight births are also more numerous.

Radio-Canada has learned that already, in September 2019, regional public health knew that the mortality rate linked to lung cancer was higher in Rouyn-Noranda and wanted to notify the population.

It seemed important to add some additional information related to the incidence of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda […] Arsenic is an aggravating factor favoring the development of lung cancer and this health effect is of particular concern to the DSPucan we read in annex 6 which was to be included in the biomonitoring report presented to the population in September 2019.

It is recalled that the Regional Public Health Department has hypothesized that emissions from the Horne Foundry belonging to Glencore could be responsible for this high incidence of lung cancer.

The appendix, however, was never published in the report. Two sources confirm that it was the national director of public health at the time and assistant deputy minister, Horacio Arruda, then passing through Rouyn-Noranda, who asked that this appendix be withdrawn from the report.

One man, two roles

The former national director of public health and assistant deputy minister, Horacio Arruda. (archives)

Photo: The Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot

In the report of the advisory committee for the follow-up of the biomonitoring study of the Notre-Dame district, which he attended on September 26, 2019, Dr. Arruda specifies that he came to Rouyn-Noranda as an adviser to the Minister Lionel Carmant and not as national director of public health.

Committee members told us that they were surprised to see him make this clarification and this is not the first time that the two roles of the national public health director have been questioned.

Last May, coroner Géhane Kamel had rightly pointed out in a report that the position of director of national public health and that of deputy minister “are two distinct roles and are perhaps not compatible”, adding that health imperatives do not necessarily correspond to the political and economic interests of a government.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) did not respond to our interview request for Dr. Horacio Arruda. We were told by email that the information in Appendix 6 was not related to regional public health research, even though it was information complementary.

This information did not meet the objectives sought by the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Public Health Department or the results obtained during this biomonitoring study of young children aged 9 months to less than 6 years residing in the neighborhood. Notre-Dame in the fall of 2018. […] It was therefore decided not to include them in this study.replied the MSSS by email.

We have also attempted to obtain an interview with Dr. Arruda’s successor, Dr. Luc Boileau, regarding air quality in Rouyn-Noranda, and our numerous requests have always been refused.

Luc Boileau officially became Quebec’s new national director of public health in May 2022. (archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Charles Contant

Health data that was already worrying in 2019

In appendix 6, we learned that from 1965 to 1974, the mortality rate linked to lung cancer among men in Rouyn-Noranda was significantly higher than elsewhere in Quebec.

After removing foundry workers, excess mortality remained significantly higher in Rouyn-Noranda […] The authors pointed out that arsenic is a carcinogen and that the association of atmospheric pollution with the excess of respiratory diseases observed in Rouyn-Noranda could not be ruled out.can we read in this appendix.

The Notre-Dame district in Rouyn-Noranda. (archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jean-Michel Cotnoir

We learn that a report from the Government of Canada in 1993 recommended investigating in more detail through epidemiological studies the mortality rate due to lung cancer among men in Rouyn-Noranda.

The problem was therefore known at the time, but it does not seem that any action was taken to reduce the concentrations of arsenic in the Notre-Dame district until the government intervened in 2004.says one in the appendix.

We can also read there that more recent data taken from the health portrait of the region also worried regional public health, in particular for the rate of lung cancer among women.

The incidence rate of lung cancer among women in Rouyn-Noranda is significantly higher and increasing faster than that of women in the Vallée-de-l’Or RCM and all of Quebecsays one in the appendix.

The document concludes by mentioning that the greater incidence of lung cancer cases in Rouyn-Noranda makes it difficult to accept the presence of arsenic in ambient air and on soil surfaces.


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