To the Editor,
Would you please print the following open letter to Dan Fergus, Assistant Director of Health Protection for Interior Health?
Dear Mr. Ferguson,
A rational fallacy in discussion is to attribute an exaggeration of claims to someone's position, and then argue with the fallacious exaggeration, rather than the actual position claimed.
I have never claimed that there is a proven direct link between the local high arsenic rates in drinking water over so many years now, and the higher-than-provincial average mortality rates data in the Interior Health studies of Lillooet statistics.
No such claims can be made until a responsible government agency does the due diligence of a comprehensive scientific investigation into the reasons for the 45 per cent higher mortality rates here. (This figure is a couple of years old, so it would be good to get this year’s figure.) I am not alone in this town in wondering if other towns the size of a Vancouver high school has as many death notices on the post office per year, year after year, as here.
When a town has two statistics that occur side by side, Mr. Ferguson correctly states that a causal relationship between the two cannot be assumed by mere event of juxtaposition. Nevertheless, when two events happen side by side, most common sense and also scientific and responsible people will do the due diligence to investigate whether this is mere happenstance, or whether there may be a causal relationship between the two.
As an example, if a fox is seen around the chicken house, and the next morning a number of chickens show a high mortality rate, this does not necessarily establish that the fox killed the chickens. But, a responsible farmer with common sense would certainly begin the due diligence investigation to keep watch and see if indeed the fox might have something to do with the high chicken mortality rates. Just because a farmer does not investigate whether a causal link exists, does not mean such a link may not exist.
As a general poison affecting the metabolism of the whole body, high arsenic levels affect other weaknesses and diseases in a body, perhaps making them more severe. Knowing this, common sense says that when there are many other well or surface waters available, it makes no common sense to locate not one, but two wells next to toxic railroad tracks, with proven high and sometimes above the legal limit arsenic rates.
For years now, local citizens have invited Interior Health to participate via studies and common sense to address the railway high arsenic wells matter in Lillooet. Interior Health says there is no proven link because, in my opinion, they have neglected the due diligence to study the matter to the satisfaction of the residents afflicted with a 45 per cent higher mortality rate for, as said many times, probably a basket of reasons, in which high arsenic rates may well prove to be a furthering provocative factor.
But we won't know until the responsible, comprehensive studies are done. A comprehensive study engaged by Interior Health on a possible relationship between high mortality rates and high arsenic rates is not rocket science. All Interior Health has to do is measure body arsenic percentages via hair and fingernail tests from the sick and the dead, ascertain the time spent drinking water in Lillooet, and then see if there is a statistical relationship.
There is a study like this in the Maritimes now, so why not here with our extant disturbing data? In all my many writings on this, I have always stressed that it is the fiduciary duty of Interior Health to address this, re Section 25 of the Freedom of Information Act.
I am thankful to Mr. Ferguson for responding to my queries over this for so many years now, in hope of, by furthering the discussion, we may all come closer to a solution in the interest of the better health of all in this community.