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Batch plant will hurt health: doctor

A proposed concrete batch plant at McLean Lake is a doorway for cancer-causing heavy industry, said Gordon Smith, a doctor of naturopathic medicine.

A proposed concrete batch plant at McLean Lake is a doorway for cancer-causing heavy industry, said Gordon Smith, a doctor of naturopathic medicine.

Smith opposes the rezoning of the land at Sleeping Giant Hill to allow Ron Newsome’s Territorial Contracting Ltd. to build a plant in the area.

Allowing the batch plant would open the door for more harmful developments, like an asphalt plant, in the area, he said.

“I’m very familiar with this very argument and to say, ‘Well it’s just a concrete batch plant,’ no, no, no.’

“You have to connect the dots here — the next step is it is sufficiently zoned, so therefore asphalt is next.”

A batch plant is bad, but an asphalt plant would be much worse, he said.

“In terms of the specifics about concrete batch plants, there’s interesting literature in terms of possible water and ambient air problems, but more so with asphalt,” said Smith.

Territorial Contracting does not intend to build an asphalt plant in the area, but Smith is not convinced that Newsome or somebody else won’t follow suit with an asphalt plant in the future.

Heavy industry can cause many adverse health effects, like cancer, reproductive disorders and genetic defects, said Smith on Tuesday.

“Many chemicals to which we’re routinely exposed mimic or block natural hormones and these can cause a wide variety of behavioural and physical health problems.

“Others weaken our immune system which is the complex mechanism that helps prevent a lot of conditions such as asthma and allergies as well as certain cancers.”

Allowing more industry in the area would exacerbate an already alarming air-quality problem in Whitehorse, he said.

The existing asphalt plant at the top of Robert Service Drive is known to release white clouds of smoke, which Smith says contains cancer-causing agents.

“It’s called the death from a thousand wounds,” he said.

“There is a very disturbing number of diseases that are escalating and it appears to mirror the growth of environmental contamination.

“From what I know about this particular situation, it’s the tip of the iceberg and we need to look realistically at applying some more foresight and some more sustainable principles — they are going to protect our kids and those who are more susceptible to these particular problems, which in the long term, is all of us.”

Smith is particularly concerned about the effect of air quality on children’s health.

“Young kids usually don’t smoke or drink alcohol or hold stressful jobs, but they do receive a greater dose of whatever chemicals are in the air and in the soil… this is because, pound for pound, they breathe, eat and drink more than adults,” he said.

“In proportion to their body weight, children drink 2.5 times more water, they eat three to four times more food and they breathe twice as much air.”

Air contaminates breathed in by expecting mothers also affect children in the womb and are excreted in a mother’s breast milk, said Smith.

“That’s at a very vital time when children’s immune and detoxifying methods haven’t fully developed,” he said.

Humans and industry do have to live side-by-side says Smith, but it shouldn’t be near residential areas, like the proposed McLean Lake site.

“If you can relocate in an area that’s less problematic, a couple of kilometres down the road, I don’t see what the problem is,” he said.

It has been suggested at public hearings on the issue that moving Territorial Contracting’s proposed batch plant further down Copper Haul Road would make it more environmentally sound.

Smith has experience in dealing with the adverse health effects of asphalt plants.

“I was involved in a year and a half of (Ontario Municipal Board) hearings to prevent further encroachment by aggregate industry in an area that should have been designated as provincially significant wet land and we were assured that they would just remove the aggregate and then just move along and then we could put in a community pool or a nursing home or put industry in there but no, the next step was to apply for an asphalt plant,” said Smith.

“I think the quote to remember is, ‘the front line is the backyard and the backyard is everywhere,’” said Smith.