Is Cornwall Ontario the Cancer Capital of Canada by Jamie Gilcig – FEB 24, 2015

cancerCORNWALL Ontario – That pretty picture above is actually a slide of cancer cells.   For nearly three years CFN has been trying to glean information about Cancer rates in Cornwall Ontario to only be met with roadblocks and a total lack of disclosure and information by the very agencies that deal in health and cancer.

One person who spoke off the record said that Cornwall was at one point the 3rd most polluted city in Canada.

(post card of Cornwall )

Chain smoking, hard drinking, near illiterates traded the health of their community for good paying jobs at pulp plants like Domtar.   One person told me that when he moved to Cornwall the rain sometimes had an odd texture to it and that the snow when it fell sometimes wasn’t white.   It was that bad.

The political power that came with that money also allowed things like a toxic dump to be created in the center of Cornwall, right near the St. Lawrence river without any membrane. That dump is still active and oddly enough also used as a ski hill in the Winter.

This is a screen shot of some of the left overs from the deconstruction of our bridge that is currently being dumped at Big Ben taken this Winter.

Over the decades it’s been alleged that soil from the Legion ball parks (contaminated) was dumped without permit.  Frankly there probably isn’t a single soul that truly knows what’s buried deep within Big Ben.

What this writer knows is that I’ve never seen as much cancer as I have seen in Cornwall.

My neighbor has cancer.  My dog has cancer.  One of our writers has cancer, one former mayor recently died of a rare cancer and another is so sick from his cancer(s) that he can’t attend court.  Our current mayor is rumored to have cancer as are at least one of our current councilors and at least one that just left.

Last week I read of a young woman, who died of cancer and was under 30.    It’s scary.   I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been touched by it somehow in this community.

Annecdotally I’ve heard that staffers at Cancer treatment centers in Ottawa talk about the high rate of Cornwallites treated there.  Many of us die in Ottawa and our true rates are hidden by the Ottawa numbers.

One person said if all Cornwall residents were actually treated in Cornwall it would create a panic.

In fact in a CBC story it was said that Ottawa had one of the highest rates of Cancer.   LINK But of course Cornwall is usually included in Ottawa stats from health to employment.  LINK to Ottawa Cancer report.

If you try to google Cancer Map Canada or anything about the cities in Canada with the highest Cancer rates you’ll be stumped to get the answers you’re looking for.

Cornwall had many factors which have led to our native rates of Cancer.   Of course the stew of toxic industrial pollution.   We also were down river from Toronto and every city heading East before the advent of better water treatment and sewage.

We had a higher rate of smokers, drinkers, and other life style issues compared to places like British Columbia which has some of the lowest rates of Cancer in Canada.

Cornwall today has much less industry and much less air pollution.  We also have a higher rate of seniors living here which can also skew numbers and rates.

Big Ben is a problem that should be looked at.  It isn’t a Cornwall problem, but one that will need cooperation from Federal and Provincial governments.   Instead of $50M inquiries to cover up officials who covered up for pedophiles and $35M white elephant ice rinks it may be time to invest in truly cleaning up our city?

Information about Cancer generally is broken down by type.  Which Cancers are most prolific, most deadly, male/female rates, age etc.  There’s very little geographical information out there.

This is the first of a series we’ll be doing on Cancer.   If you want to tell your story or have any information to contribute please email jamie@cornwallfreenews.com

 

 

78 comments

  1. While I was house hunting in Kingston, I stopped at an open house.I was asked where I live now,when I said Cornwall,he responded with Cornwall has the highest cancer rates of all around ,that was all he knew about Cornwall.Usually it,s the smell from Domtar or the smuggling that I,d heard.Once while in N B a man said he was worried about Cornwall,s weak border crossing where he had heard about the human smuggling causing problems of security for Canada

  2. When I was a child I lived near Brookdale and 2nd street. I would ride my bike on a sunny day and could feel rain falling but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It came from those smoke stacks. Ever wonder why every house on Brookdale can’t keep paint on their house?

  3. Funny that u mention cancer…i have lived in cornwall just over a year..my dog just had a cancer mass removed yesterday. .and today has a 8 inch x 1 inch deep scar …looks like 15 stitches…and iam really cocerned that it was caused by the black mould that covers the walls and insulation in the basement under my apartment..the basement that to date still fills up with water every thaw or rain…buildning inspector told me he is no mould expert so even thou clearly you can see its black mould..he told me to talk to the health unit..who in turn told me to call the building inspector..and the wjeel turns…slumlords keep renting these units and seems on hand is feeding the other to get anyone to do anything about it…maybe this could be a contributor to all the cancer in pets too…all i keep hitting is a dead end no one will help me get this mould cleaned out…and its 1200 square feet under our apts that is full of it insulation and all from the floor of basement to the ceiling of basement…we are all always getting sick..multiple symptoms and still no one will help..so…its a cancer breeding ground !!!

  4. Lower rates of mercury in fish now than in the 70s / 80s we are told.

    Mary, someone from New Brunswick commenting about Cornwall’s weak border is rich. We have a river separation and they have a golf course at the Maine border.

  5. Including Cornwall in Ottawa stats makes no sense. But then again when does anything the government do make sense?

    As for the border I agree with Eric. Someone from New Brunswick commenting about Cornwall’s weak border is rich. We have a river separation and they have a golf course at the Maine border. As well, it doesn’t help that Awkesasne / St. Regis straddle Quebec, Ontario and the U.S.A.

  6. Donna Borden. Get an air quality test and if it’s positive then go see the health unit. You can go see the people at Thompson Rosemount group on Rosemount ave. I think it’s called Genevieve now. They will do a test and tell you how many parts per of mould in the air. Then you have an issue with your slum load. And yes you’ll have to pay for the test but if positive you should b reimburse by the land lord. And if that don’t work GET OUT!!

  7. And if your heating unit is in that mould filled basement guess where it’s all being blown into. Your apartment. Mould causes respritory issues not cancer issues like asbestos

  8. hugger,you named the smuggling perps alright, It is mostly done under cover of darkness,& during the night. A few years back one drown that was being smuggled across,there were charges but I do not know how it turned out.The N B man knew full well who & how it was being done but I did not want to mention,pretty much everyone knows. They also use people,s boat houses along the river.

  9. Yes Cornwall is the town with the most cancers and surpasses Hamilton Ontario in being filthy and cancers. There is one more town that comes to mind just now here in Ontario and that is Sarnia being close to the US and has an oil refinery plant. There is a place in Québec called Asbestos and it is there where Asbestos comes from and yes plenty of cancer. Houses that are old and has asbestos insulation has cancer causing ingredients. Even pipes in the basement (some of them among the old) have asbestos and the same thing causes cancers. Cornwall is the town that is renowned for the most cancer and the doctors here in Ottawa know all about it and most of their cases come from Cornwall.

  10. I found something for everyone to read and it is something that someone mentioned here some time ago who called herself “One Who Cares” about wood burning stoves and how it is bad for the health. Some people burn wood as a source of heat like what Furtz does out in the boonies and something happened to me some years ago when we had our house where I became asphyxiated and refused to go to the hospital and it happened in the evening in Cornwall. I would like everyone to read this now since it is very important:

    How pollution is affecting your heart

    http://www.canadianliving.com/health/prevention/

    I found this article in Canadian Living Magazine and found this to be a good article.

    My doctor told me three weeks ago that cancer is on the rise and he said that Cornwall was one of the very worst places for cancer.

  11. I agree that cornwall has outragously high cancer rates ! My father worked at domtar for 25+ years and is one of 12 guys to get lung cancer while still working at the paper mill…6 generations of my family worked there back to when it was built !so out of those 12 guys to get lung cancer , only 2 or 3 are still alive today ! Thankfully my father is amoung the ones still alive ! His dept was the finishing room and i also know a ton of ex domtar guys and most of these guys have had either skin cancer or lung cancer ,seems like domtar was a huge hamd im killing our fathers,uncles,grandfathers,mothers and so on..and as for big ben ,i never knew it was a dump ,i do know it stinks so terribly it turns my stomach! And after climbing it one summer with a bunch of friends i got a huge rash all over my whole body almost ,as well as i was sick for about a week afterwords. A few of the guys i was with had the same issues..after that i stayed away from that place !

  12. Someone mentioned here about they lived in the Brookdale and 2nd Street area where he was a child and would bicycle around where the mill was located and get sprayed by some substance and yes this happened to me just walking by. My eldest sister lives in Riverdale and I sometimes would walk to her house (Cornwall is so small) and I experienced that spray. Now the mill is in China along with all the other Domtar mills and people in China cannot breathe and experiencing health issues. Not only Cornwall with the health problems but the Keystone pipeline in the west where people are earning big money – the people whether Native or white who live along that stretch are sick with cancers, etc. and you just need to look it up. The Americans don’t want the pipeline on their land but Obama vetoed it because of his billionaire friends who have money invested into it and one is Warren Buffet. We also have the Alaskan pipeline going through our Canada and that too is harmful even for the animal life.

  13. Lets not forget the aluminium smelters at Massena that dumped over 340-lbs per hour of toxic fluoride pollution into the environment for over 20-years . . . . and destroyed the Mohawk dairy, fishing and agricultural sectors. One of the smelters dumped fluoride laced waste directly into Lake St Lawrence and just across from the Cornwall’s municipal water intake pipe. There are ongoing denials about the harmful effects of fluoride pollution in the environment

  14. Good one David Oldham. There is a small river to the south, but most of the course touches land with Maine. I am just saying Cornwall is not the root of all evil, other jurisdictions have their share of issues.

    Aroostook Valley Country Club

  15. Although I do not disagree that there are many cancer cases in Cornwall and area..that STATEMENT of it being the capital of Cancer is quite fetching….If you simply go to the Canadian Cancer website http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/canadian-cancer-statistics-publication/?region=on
    look at the statistics. Population in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is so much higher than in Ontario…just to compare Ontario cancer rates are 402.2 per 100,000 whereas in New Brunswick for example it is 414.2 per 100,000. There is only 755,000 people living in New Brunswick. There is more people living in Ottawa than all of New Brunswick.

  16. Exactly Chantal. It may turn out that Cornwall has some higher-than-average rates of certain cancers (lung in women for instance) or that Cornwall is a “cancer cluster” but without data it’s all conjecture. Being a small community, there is also increased likelihood that people will have increased awareness of the people they personally know who have cancer. In developed nations, like Canada, we also have higher life-expectancy than those at the turn of the 20th century, and live long enough….I think it’s 2 in 5 Canadians that can expect to develop a cancer over their lifetime. Cancer is not a “new” disease. Cancers are not caused solely by pollutants. Obesity can significantly increase of woman’s risk for endometrial cancer. For others, there are genetic predispositions (consider why Angelina J. chose mastectomy). Humankind has always had cancers, and beyond genetics, it is now known that several cancers are caused by infectious pathogens like Human Papilloma Virus and H. pylori. Nevertheless, environmental toxins (beyond cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos etc.) remain very important. It would be interesting to know whether toxicologists have assessed the Big Ben site, especially if the information could allay misperceptions.

  17. Mary Anne Pankhurst….do you really think the city or province wants Big Ben investigated? There is no way that they want that. They just want us to sit here and take what they dish out. If toxicologists ever assessed Big Ben site, governments would have some answering to do. That’s not what they want.

  18. Gilles Frank….Any proof of what you said “And now Big Ben’s Toxins have entered the “Aqua fir” that runs down through Fort Covington?”

  19. The statistics on all cancers Cornwall’s ranking or incidence rate is available. The data is used by all insurance companies. The data is required by actuaries to calculate risk among other things.

    To the best of my recollection Shawville Que. ranked slightly ahead of Cornwall and both communities ranked very near the top for North America overall. That data is 15 years out of date and will have obviously changed.

    Sad to say that Cornwall has a very strong presence at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Clinic. Please donate.

  20. For as long as I can remember, Cornwall wasn’t considered a healthy place to live. Anyone with a functioning nose driving by on the 401 would speed up just to get away from the stink.

  21. When we used to visit my gram in upstate NY we would take the 401 because it shaved hours off the commute. My Dad used to think it was funny to roll down the windows going through Cornwall. When we smelled rotten cabbage soup, we knew we were going to be at Gram’s place within an hour.

  22. Hugger the toxic residue as Furtz pointed out is very real and it has gotten into the water and if people only knew about the cancer rates in Cornwall they would be blown away. I noticed that in a few people who work in the city who have cancers and they are not those who worked in sewers or anything like that but in administration. If you only knew what the feds, prov. and Domtar along with the city left you you would literally scream and want it all out of there. It would cost a king’s ransom to get it all out and still it would not be cleaned up at all. If you think that the Domtar properties that became the albatross Benson Centre is cleaned think again. You cannot clean up 100 years or more of Domtar waste from a place and the air and water are mighty polluted even if you don’t smell it it is still there and will always be for many long years to come.

  23. It boggles my mind that any city in the “developed” world would permit a mountain of toxic sludge to exist within its boundaries. And to use it for a recreational site is beyond insane. There’s a good reason why Cornwall still has bad reputation when it comes to environmental health issues. It’s the last place in Canada that I’d choose to raise a family.

  24. Hugger1: I have sent Jamie copies of the Dillon report that was produced in the late 80’s and early 90’s which states that contaminates had reached bedrock and the Aqua-fir. In 2001-2003 test holes dug around the site. Including were the Benson center sits.Verified this claim.

  25. Gilles Frank….good. But my mind is still boggled this environmental disaster was permitted to be built and continues to be used as a dumping ground.

  26. Perhaps Mr. Frank will share which of our local politicians he’s sent his materials to as well?

  27. According to Statistics Canada, the median age in Cornwall is 45.4 years compared that of 40.4 in the rest of Ontario and 40.6 in Canada. The stats I could find also indicated thatathere are more people in older demographic groups and less in younger ones compared to the rest of Ontario, which makes sense give the higher median age.

    That means there’s a lot more older people in Cornwall than most other places. Combine that with the fact that Cornwall’s population grew less than 1% for the last two half-census cycles, it means you have an aging population wit minimal replacement.

    Given that cancers are primarily diseases of the old, with only a small few exceptions like leukaemias, There’s a good probability that any perceived higher rate of cancer in Cornwall is due to that and that alone.

    You’ll need a few types of data to show the rate actually is higher:

    – incidence rates and not the numbers of local diagnoses
    – broken down by age demographics
    – controlling for length of time resident in the city

    If you can then show that the incidence rates for people over 50 who lived in Cornwall for 20+ years is higher than elsewhere and that the error bars have no overlap, then your anecdotal stores about pollution may be something to look into.

    But until then, that you personally know people with cancer in a small city with an aging population is really nothing more than confirmation bias.

  28. Cory I think that fact that the EOHU and other agencies are refusing to cooperate with requests for information speaks volumes as does the fact that so many with cancer in Cornwall have to be treated in Ottawa, Winchester, and even Toronto.

  29. People having to go elsewhere for treatment elsewhere for treatment also does not mean that the incidence rates of cancers are higher in Cornwall than elsewhere.

    An alternate reason would be that there was simply bad planning for creating treatment centres that did not realize (or not take into account) an aging population with a higher proportion of older people. Occam’s razor and all that.

    Or it could be because Cornwall is a small city and a better use of funds is to place it in the catchment area of a larger city’s centre.

    I’ve never even been to Cornwall, much less lived there, so please accept my comments as an outsider who can add some objective thoughts to a subject that you are passionate about.

    The link you provide about Ottawa cancer rates being the highest actually says the exact opposite on page 7: “Incidence due to all cancers combined was significantly lower in Ottawa compared to the rest of
    Ontario”. I am frankly surprised that the CBC’s normally high quality reporting would allow them to choose a headline that is so flatly contradicted by the report from which they based the article.

    Though that report doesn’t really seem relevant Cornwall. Judging by the numbers in it, it is only about the Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area and not about all of Eastern Ontario.

    I do note one thing, however, that may be useful in your search for information. The Data sources section of the report says where the data was gotten from – SEER*stat http://seer.cancer.gov/data/access.html – which contains global data, not just American.

    You could get that software and the Canadian database and see if the geographic data is sufficient to produce incidence data for just Cornwall. If it is, and the incidence rate does turn out to be significantly higher than the rest of Ontario, then you will have undeniable data that nobody will be able to ignore.

  30. There is no way that Ottawa has a high cancer rate and don’t forget Ottawa is a million people whereas Cornwall is only around 43,000 and Winchester is a farm. People come from all over Eastern Ontario for cancer treatment and they go to Kingston as well. I have never heard about Winchester giving cancer treatments at all – this is a first. Cornwall is the town where the vast majority of cancers {MODERATED} Hamilton which is a big city,{MODERATED} Windsor which is a between city big enough and more than Sudbury and most areas. If you take a good look at the gift that Domtar left behind in the middle of Cornwall you would be shocked and something that the sheeple let their kids ski on during the winter which is all Domtar’s poisons for cancers in which they call Big Ben. People will wind up with Big Ben cancers and{MODERATED}. Mom never smoked in her life but dad did and never drank – she was much more of a straight arrow than what I am and she got cancer and later died of that disease along with diabetes and alzheimers disease. I have relatives who have died of cancers and none worked in the mills like Domtar or Courthaulds. My BIL died of lymphoma (cancer of the lympth glands) and worked at Courthaulds. Many people in Cornwall died of cancers and never worked in the mills. You breathe that garbage, you drink the water which {MODERATED} contaminated, etc.

  31. Jules, stats don’t lie. But stats are so open to interpretation. It’s amazing one “expert” can see one thing in stats, whereas another “expert” can see something totally opposite.

  32. Hugger there is also something about genetics involved in all of this stuff as well and the more I connect the dots the more I am convinced. Cancer runs in families like mine, like my husband’s, diabetes in families, thyroid disease in my husband’s family, arthritis in both, high blood pressure in both, heart problems in both, strokes in both and I can go on and on if you get my drift. All diseases are usually hereditary because of the cells in the body and some people do not get those diseases and skips a generation or two and others get it. Some have no hereditary diseases that they are aware of and get it. It all has to do with metabolism as well. {MODERATED}

  33. Yes, hereditary and genetics play a major part in cancer and other diseases. But when stats are looked at those are thrown out the window. Stats are for a region \ area as a whole, hereditary and genetics are not factored in.

  34. I’ve lived in cornwall for 57 yrs, my mom worked at Domtar along with numerous relatives, my dad worked “in” Domtar but not for them,my gram spent years in courtaulds I’ve never felt anything in our rain?? the last 37 yrs of my life have been spent living about 3 miles from Domtar? roughly? now the smell would drive us crazy somedays *L* along with the logging trucks going by our house, but all was fine, we have had no cancer in all of our family, going back 4 generations, not sure about before that, husbands cornwall family included *knocks on wood*, now if you want to talk heart disease, we have plenty of that in the family. where would one find the stats about this??

  35. Shelly B…simple observation will provide most of the information that is not necessarily easy to obtain (unless you know an actuary). Do people in Cornwall look fit to you? Do a significant number of people appear to have two or more inches of excess belly fat? High blood pressure, heart disease and stroke to name a few are exacerbated by the lack of exercise and proper diet. Look at what people put in their food shopping cart. Personally I very seldom eat processed food (sugars, salt and preservatives) but I see people purchasing ready made junk food in liberal quantities. You do not have to have any special training to understand that Cornwall is not a model of healthy living. Education or rather lack of is a very large part of the problem and Cornwall in this regard as a community is no where near the top of the pack. We need to improve and give our children a better chance at a healthy life.

  36. Is Cornwall any different from any other city in its choice of bad diet and lack of exercise? Nope.

  37. I would check into that one Hugger1. Most would agree that education is a principle factor in our food choices for a multitude of reasons. I have traveled extensively and I can say without hesitation that Cornwall is at or close to the top of the list. Prior to coming to Cornwall I seldom saw people in such large numbers wearing sweatpants as everyday clothing. Not to mention the vast numbers walking around in flannel or cotton pajama bottoms. Obviously Hugger1 your vantage point has been completely different than my own. Which is why in the past I have stated that opinions are neither right or wrong but rather a perspective. Thank you for sharing yours.

  38. Hugger and Mary Ann mentioned about Big Ben and yes that is a huge problem. My husband and I used to walk all over where Big Ben is located and beyond and I have seen the leaks from Big Ben and other areas go into the St. Lawrence River. We are avid walkers and I have seen so much. I have seen dogs in Cornwall who would take a dip in the water where the Power Dam is located and come out with sores on their bodies and one dog owner in particular who has the money spent huge amounts on meds for his dog like you wouldn’t believe and the sores kept coming back until his end. The water in Cornwall is highly polluted and you cannot remove chemicals with a filter at all. During the construction of the Seaway some kids would go and swim in the St. Lawrence River during those days and came out with sores on their bodies. Today is no different. The water in Cornwall is many times more polluted than the Ottawa River. There are at least 100 more chemicals if not more in the St. Lawrence River. Even though Domtar and Courthauls are gone the air and soil (expeciall the soil) is totally and completely contaminated and that won’t go away at all. It would take a clean up that would cost more than a king’s ransom and best to fence it up and not touch it at all. Even land around those areas are contaminated. Not only that but land around railroad tracks from past years when trains operated with coal have created polluted lands. Someone mentioned that the province will not touch Big Ben and I think that they are right on that. That polluted Big Ben Dump was left to Cornwall as a gift from Domtar to remember them by and the people in China cannot breathe with the highly polluted air of Domtar where they have now settled.

  39. Seriously Jules. Dogs and people go swimming in the St. Lawrence River and they come out with sores? I can see it hours or days later, but as soon as they come out of the water??

    Proof Jules, proof. Do you have proof the St. Lawrence River is MANY more times polluted than the Ottawa River. Don’t forget Ottawa also had lumber / paper processing facilities on the Ottawa River. E.B. Eddy, now Domtar was one such facility. Bowaer and Scott /Kruger are others on the Ottawa River. Let’s not forget the paper processing plant at Masson, QC.

  40. Hugger I am well aware of E.B. Eddie here in Ottawa and CIP Research in Gatineau. We are so lucky to be rid of those companies – we thought that we were back in Cornwall. Back in the mid 70’s era when we first came to Ottawa I remember seeing logs in the Ottawa River and some people were riding on the logs. Those sure are days gone by for good. About people and dogs getting sores on their body after swimming in the St. Lawrence River in Cornwall is the truth especially during the days of the seaway and even not all that long ago. There is this man in the Riverdale area who had this big dog I forget the breed of the dog and every time that dog loved to go in the water at the Power Dam and would come out with sores all over his skin and the owner who was a former teacher spent lots of money on his dog for meds. There were some other dogs with the same problem. There are kids who live in the east end of town as well as centre town and they swam in the river and had sores on their skin. This is all very true. Cornwall’s water is highly polluted and that is the truth much more so than Ottawa’s river even with the mills that used to exist here was not as bad as those of Cornwall. There was a man that we used to see at Lamoureux Park who used to work at Domtar and he went around with one of those oxygen tanks and the tubes in his nose and he said that it was caused by working at Domtar. I have other cases that I know about as well.

  41. You didn’t catch the gist of my comments. Most cities that have industries have issues with their water. This is not a problem unique to Cornwall.

  42. In the early 80’s I wrote a research paper on quality of life in Cornwall. It was easy to find documentation that Cornwall had the highest brain cancer rates in Canada and the highest rates of gross child neglect in Ontario. Cornwall was only second to Perth for rates of incest according to the stats.

    My research on cancer rates in Cornwall was a big factor in my decision to leave the city when I finished school.

  43. Hugger my husband and I walked one time with a couple of nurses from Cornwall and they said the same things t us that the St. Lawrence River was highly polluted as well as the mills and that Cornwall had a great deal of cancer patients and most come to Ottawa for treatment. Yes Hugger people who go and went swimming in the St. Lawrence River had sores on their bodies and even the dogs and I know because I lived there all my life whereas you are from Ottawa. I used to go to St. Lawrence Park as a child (off Montreal Road) but I never swam in the river and there were two child’s wading pools there that I would swim in sometimes. I have seen the runoff of Domtar go into the St. Lawrence River at the back of Domtar through a pipe that went into the river. The St. Lawrence river is mighty dirty and it stinks to high heaven. I have seen many men who worked for both Courthaulds and Domtar who were cancer patients and they were mighty sick from working in such places. That dump in the middle of Cornwall that some people use as a ski hill are going to come down with terrible cancers. Fishing from the St. Lawrence River is another hazard and don’t forget that there is the aluminum plant in Massena as well and their garbage is shipped into the St. Lawrence river as well.

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