Health study group should work with the province instead of looking for $5 million for its own: Arnold


St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold wants to know why the Lambton Community Health Study isn’t tapping into a province-wide study instead of looking for $5 million to fund its own.

For the past nine years, the group has been working on a report to determine if living in the shadow of the petrochemical industry affects the health of Lambton County residents. Study Chair Anne Marie Gillis says last month the group decided it needed to have $5 million in funding to go ahead with the research and it was giving itself one year to find the cash.

The group is asking Lambton County to contribute $11,000 so it can put together a plan to make a pitch to industry and the federal and provincial governments. But that request has been put on hold over concerns there may be another way to approach the problem.

Arnold says the Ontario government’s health study is an option the Lambton group hasn’t fully looked into to get the answers they are seeking.  “My real concern is going out looking to the public…when there is already a health study underway that meets our needs,” Arnold told county committee members adding people participating in the Ontario can have “blood work done, a health assessment, and it has to do with asbestos.” Asbestos is one of the main known causes of industrial disease in the area. “The use of the Ontario Health Study has not addressed and yet we’re looking for more money…when the Ontario government is doing it.”

But Gillis says the residents of Sarnia-Lambton have specific concerns the Health Study group believes need research beyond the provincial work. “We’re concerned our concerns will be glossed over,” she says. “We are unique with the Chemical Valley…we want to zero in on issues hoping to convince the province to impose lower emissions from industry.”

But the politicians wanted a deeper analysis of whether the Ontario Health Study could meet the needs. It has delayed a decision on the $11,000 until the group can fully explain why the provincial study is not adequate.

In the meantime, Arnold is worried the county will miss out on an opportunity. “We need to participate more fully in the Ontario Health Study…we as a county have not done a good job to get our people to participate…yet we continue down this path (to raise $5 million for a Sarnia-Lambton study) and keep getting doors shut…there is a reason why …if we totally ignore that we’ll be making a decision to shut it down and we’ll have missed the train.”

– Heather Wright