No ev­i­dence of ‘can­cer clus­ter’ at Cathe­dral so far

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NATALIE PAD­DON The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor npad­don@thes­ 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

Air qual­ity test­ing con­ducted at Cathe­dral High School has shown the level of po­ten­tially can­cer caus­ing chem­i­cals in­side the build­ing to be the same as or be­low what is typ­i­cally found out­side.

The Hamil­ton-Went­worth Catholic District School Board hired en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sult­ing firm Pinchin Ltd. to carry out the as­sess­ment after the union rep­re­sent­ing teach­ers at the school raised con­cerns about what they be­lieve is a “dis­pro­por­tional amount” of staff there that have been di­ag­nosed with can­cer in late 2016.

A let­ter to staff from as­so­ciate med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health Jes­sica Hop­kins says the re­sults show lev­els of ben­zene, 1,2-dichloroethane and methy­lene chloride sim­i­lar to what would be de­tected in “ur­ban set­tings”. “Based upon this find­ing, it can be con­cluded that the risks con­nected with ex­po­sure to the lev­els found at the school are sim­i­lar to the risks one would come across in ev­ery­day life,” the let­ter reads. “Based on the in­for­ma­tion you have pro­vided us to date, there is no ev­i­dence of a can­cer clus­ter re­lated to an ex­po­sure at the school.”

Board chair Pat Daly said that in­for­ma­tion was shared with staff at a meet­ing last week and will be passed on to par­ents and stu­dents.

Pres­i­dent of the lo­cal Catholic se­condary school teach­ers’ union Ser­gio Ca­coilo said he was pleased by the re­sults, but noted two ad­di­tional teach­ers have been di­ag­nosed with can­cer in re­cent months, bring­ing the num­ber of cases of can­cer among staff since 1995 to 23.

“The first test, in my opin­ion, is good re­sults, but we still don’t have the other sets of tests that are go­ing to be com­ing in,” he said.

The board has asked Pinchin to con­duct what is called a “phase one en­vi­ron­men­tal site as­sess­ment”, which will look at the his­tory of the site as well as records of its cleanup.

The as­sess­ment will take be­tween three and six weeks to com­plete, Daly said.

“That will make rec­om­men­da­tions in terms of next steps,” he said.

The union said it tal­lied the num­ber of can­cer cases, which in­clude lung, prostate and col­orec­tal, from peo­ple who have taught at Cathe­dral since it opened at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion at 30 Went­worth St. N. in Septem­ber 1995.

They ar­rived at this num­ber by ask­ing union rep­re­sen­ta­tives, teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and other staff to re­call cases, Ca­coilo said.

The union asked for the same to be done at other Catholic high schools in the city. Ca­coilo said, anec­do­tally, there is an av­er­age of about five or six cases at the other schools.

Four­teen teach­ers have asked for trans­fers as a re­sult of this is­sue, Ca­coilo said.

The school was con­structed on an old Hamil­ton Street Rail­way site. The union pre­vi­ously raised con­cerns that an old trans­former re­mains un­der­ground on the site and could be leach­ing into the ground.

Daly said all transformers were re­moved when the HSR han­dled the cleanup of the site.

Daly: await­ing re­sults of more tests

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