To the Editor:
I was gratified to see full page coverage provided to the question of the juxtaposition in Lillooet of both high arsenic rates and high mortality rates. Such an alarming in-situ juxtaposition anywhere would normally result in the responsible authorities and universities conducting the specific-to-Lillooet studies to establish the science of possible linkages.
Please see article link below:
“Toenail sampling to check for link between arsenic, N.S. cancer rates” www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/05/06/arsenic-cancer-toenails.html
Medicine is, thankfully, based on science, and science is based on specificity of collected data, before generalizations and speculations are accepted.
Your long article about Interior Health Interior Health is long on speculative generalizations, and these are good health tips for sure, re “eat better, smoke less, lose weight, gain income” and so forth, and this is general advice well appreciated across all communities, but such good general advice does not address whether a specific link exists between high arsenic drinking water here over a long time now, and the seemingly climbing high mortality rates.
Most in Lillooet have made dramatic improvements in lifestyle, and yet the mortality rate keeps climbing? Only science, not speculation, can provide specific proof, and if no link is finally established by science, I would be the happiest man in the world, because like many other parents here (unknowingly feeding arsenic- laced cooking and drinking products to my children because I was negligent by being too trustful of seemingly cavalier Village Councils over past years), a tremendous parental guilt would then be lifted from my shoulders.
The Interior Health article introduces a “life style-based” possible explanation for the high mortality statistics here.
This would be the “basket of causes” I referred to. Again, here too, this is perhaps a sound speculation, but it can only become part of the science here if the relevant studies are performed by the responsible authorities. To establish this linkage causality, a study would need to establish that the 45 per cent higher mortality rate is concomitant with a 45 per cent higher “bad lifestyle” rate "only in Lillooet", re this basket of possible causes. (Yes, I know it's more 'complex', but science starts with basic glaring data, and then goes into the complexities).
Let's not forget that arsenic (“There is no safe level” the science has established) is a general toxin, and so makes worse all the other diseases in a given population group. That is, name any disease, ('lifestyle-originated disease', if you will), and it will be made worse by various degrees of arsenic. Naming other speculative causes for the local high mortality rate simply tells us that given these diseases here, we should be particularly prudent in avoiding arsenic-laced drinking water here at all costs.
One of the difficulties with ascertaining the science of systemic long term poisoning is that often the chickens do not come home to roost for many accumulative years of poisoning to the afflicted population.
Hence, yes, establishing the science, gets 'complex'. It is for this reason that in such toxic matters, it is the responsibility of the responsible authorities to always act on the side of caution, particularly when so many plentiful 'other-than-arsenic' water sources are available. And also, it is for this reason that the 'nail and hair' tests, as Nova Scotia is doing, need to be done in Lillooet.
And in the meantime, I would say, that Interior Health has the responsibility to shut down the two high arsenic wells once and for all until the many “due diligence” required studies have been done.
After so many years of these community concerns about this, I appreciate the long response Interior Health made in your story, and I sincerely hope that this will lead to further studies conducted, and pending the results of these studies, that the two local high arsenic wells will be shut down by Interior Health's fiduciary responsibility to do so, until the results of the required studies are established.
If Nova Scotia can do it, (population: 921,727) so can Interior Health in BC.
Sincerely, Erdman T. Millyard