Horacio Arruda prevented the dissemination of cancer data in Rouyn-Noranda | Arsen Rouyn-Noranda

The latest data on the health of the population, released last May, has many concerned. We learned that the rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is higher than the national average, that the incidence of lung cancer is significantly higher, and that low birth weight births are also more common.

Radio-Canada has learned that as early as September 2019, the Regional Public Health Service knew that the mortality rate from lung cancer was higher in Rouyn-Noranda and wanted to inform the population.

It seemed important to add some additional information on the incidence of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda […] Arsenic is an aggravating factor in the development of lung cancer and this health effect is of particular concern to the DSPuwe can read in Appendix 6, which should be included in the biomonitoring report presented to the public in September 2019.

It is recalled that the Regional Public Health Department has hypothesized that emissions from the Horne Foundry, owned by Glencore, may be responsible for this high incidence of lung cancer.

However, the appendix was never published in the report. Two sources confirm that it was then-National Director of Public Health and Deputy Deputy Minister Horacio Arruda who went through Rouyn-Noranda at the time and asked that this appendix be removed from the report.

One man, two roles

Former National Director of Public Health and Deputy Deputy Minister Horacio Arruda. (Archive)

Photo: The Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot

In the report of the advisory committee for the follow-up to the District of Notre-Dame biomonitoring study in which he participated on September 26, 2019, Dr. Arruda states that he came to Rouyn-Noranda as an adviser to Minister Lionel Carmant and not as national director for public health.

Committee members told us they were surprised he made that clarification, and this isn’t the first time the dual roles of the national director of public health have been called into question.

Last May, coroner Géhane Kamel correctly pointed out in a report that the position of national director of public health and that of deputy minister “are two distinct roles and may not be compatible,” adding that they are Health imperatives do not necessarily correspond to a government’s political and economic interests.

The Department of Health and Human Services (MSSS) did not respond to our interview request for Dr. Horacio Arruda. We were informed by email that the information in Appendix 6, although it was information, did not relate to regional public health research complementary.

This information did not meet the objectives pursued by the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Health Department or the results of this biomonitoring study on young children aged 9 months to less than 6 years living in the neighborhood of Notre-Dame in autumn 2018. […] Therefore, it was decided not to include them in this study.replied the MSSS via email.

We also attempted an interview with Dr. Arruda’s successor, Dr. Luc Boileau to obtain information on the air quality in Rouyn-Noranda and our numerous requests have always been refused.

Luc Boileau officially became Quebec’s new national health director in May 2022. (Archives)

Photo: Radio Canada / Charles Contant

Health data that was already worrying in 2019

In Appendix 6 we learned that from 1965 to 1974 the death rate from lung cancer among males in Rouyn-Noranda was significantly higher than elsewhere in Quebec.

After the removal of foundry workers, excess mortality remained significantly higher in Rouyn-Noranda […] The authors pointed out that arsenic is carcinogenic and that a link between air pollution and the excess of respiratory diseases observed in Rouyn-Noranda cannot be ruled out.can be read in this appendix.

The Notre-Dame district in Rouyn-Noranda (archive)

Photo: Radio Canada / Jean-Michel Cotnoir

We learn that a 1993 Canadian government report recommended that epidemiological studies be carried out to further investigate the mortality rate from lung cancer among males in Rouyn-Noranda.

2004″,”text”:”La problématique était donc connue à l’époque, mais il ne semble qu’aucune action n’ait été entreprise pour réduire les concentrations d’arsenic dans le quartier Notre-Dame jusqu’à l’intervention du gouvernement en2004″}}”>So the problem was well known at the time, but it appears that no action was taken to reduce arsenic levels in the Notre-Dame neighborhood until government intervention in 2004.says one in the attachment.

We can also read that recent data from the Region’s Health Portrait are also troubling regional public health, particularly regarding the rate of lung cancer in women.

The incidence rate of lung cancer among women in Rouyn-Noranda is significantly higher and increasing faster than that of women in the La Vallée-de-l’Or and all Quebec MRCsays one in the attachment.

The document concludes that the higher incidence of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda makes it difficult to accept the presence of arsenic in the air and on soil surfaces.

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