I hope you’re doing well. Let me briefly introduce myself: Dr. Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, family doctor practicing in the Hochelaga Maisonneuve district of Montreal and also president of the Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment (AQME).
I would like to open a dialogue with you regarding the recent decision to authorize an increase in the standards for nickel in the air in Quebec.
Last February, we submitted a extensive thesis at the MELCC which I invite you to read. The executive summary, taking up four pages, provides a good summary of the most important elements. We also share several recommendations with you.
More recently, we sent a missive to Dr. Boileau, inviting him to revisit the opinion of the National Public Health Department concerning the increase in nickel standards, among other things following theconsensus opinion of the 18 regional public health departments who opposed the increase in standards.
I share with you today the important elements that drive our thinking, and that feed our concerns:
- Both the technical data sheet and the toxicology review state that there are no nickel speciation studies in Quebec, thus concluding that we can rely on Ontario and European standards. However, this is false. A study commissioned by the MELCC itself in 2013 showed that the type of nickel found in the air in Quebec was pentlandite (which is markedly different than in Ontario and Europe, where we find mainly nickel sulfate) and that its sole source was the Port of Quebec. In the scientific literature, pentlandite can be associated with lung cancer, while nickel sulphate is much less dangerous for health. This is also why the WHO recommends different standards, specific to each type of nickel. It is therefore false to assert that relying on Ontario/European standards is safe.
- The Toxicological review of the nickel industry’s regulatory framework for the ambient air component, filed in 2018 and on which the national DSP seems to rely, constituted a review of scientific literature, but whose most recent articles were dated 2011. That being said, several other scientific articles have been published since and have been integrated into the analysis submitted to you by the AQME. We have listed 31 studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses of interest which are not cited in the Toxicological Review, and of which 19 were carried out in humans. These new data, calling for caution regarding the cocktail of pollutants in the atmosphere, deserve to be considered in the decision.
- While we are talking about health congestion and your government has clearly indicated its intention to improve access to the health network for all Quebecers (and with good reason!), air pollution remains a major health issue. . Each year, 4,000 people die prematurely from the consequences of air pollution, generating costs for the health system of around 30 billion. The more we study pollution, the more we realize, with supporting evidence, that it is toxic for almost all the organs of the body: it is associated with neuro-developmental disorders in the little ones (including ADHD ) and an increased cardiovascular risk in older people (heart disease, neurocognitive disorders). The WHO also, last fall, revised downwards the standards of good air quality for practically all pollutants. It seems inconsistent to us to work for environmental transition while polluting more.
We now extend a very sincere hand to you. We would be pleased to take the time to discuss this important issue, which worries (with good reason!) many citizens, and more particularly, those living in Quebec and Rouyn-Noranda, who already breathe, every day, a polluted by industries near their place of residence.
As a physician, when we reassess a patient, it is not uncommon to modify the diagnosis and treatment plan when new elements are brought to our attention. This is what we now ask you to do.
Dr. Claudel P-Desrosiers, Family physician, CLSC Hochelaga Maisonneuve, President, Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment
In CC: Dr. Johanne Elsener and Dr. Frederic Tupinier-Martin, co-authors of the AQME report on nickel