For decades, residents of Sarnia, Ontario, and the nearby Aamjiwnaang First Nation have suspected a link between their proximity to industrial plants and their health problems. Now, a multi-million dollar government study confirms their fears: air pollution from the plants increases cancer risk, particularly leukemia.
The study found elevated benzene levels, a known carcinogen, in certain areas, up to 44 times higher than air quality standards. This translates to a greater risk of blood cancers, especially for residents on the north side of Aamjiwnaang and south Sarnia, closest to the chemical plants.
While industry claims millions are being invested in upgrades and compliance with regulations, residents and experts believe it’s time for stricter rules. “There’s no excuse for these continued high levels,” says air pollution engineer Scott Grant. “Regulations need to be upgraded, and the technology is available.”
The government acknowledges the study’s findings and promises “further action” to reduce risks and improve quality of life. But for residents who’ve waited years for answers, waiting is no longer an option. Dorothy and Wilson Plain Jr. lost their son Jeremy to leukemia just six days after diagnosis. They, along with countless others, demand immediate action to ensure their right to clean air and a safe home.
The fight for clean air in Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang is far from over. While the study provides crucial validation, residents are now pushing for concrete steps to address the issue and protect their health. The government’s response will be closely watched, with the lives and well-being of an entire community hanging in the balance.