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High tritium levels in Ottawa River – a public health disaster

March 25th, 2009

International Health Institute Calls for Immediate Attention

In support of the Tritium Awareness Project and MPs who are calling for action, the International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH) calls on authorities to heed warnings about public health risks from spills of tritium into air and water from Chalk River nuclear reactors. Tritium and other radioactive contaminants are being released into the Ottawa River, affecting the drinking water for millions of people in the communities that draw water from the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. Unless immediate and serious action is taken, chronic exposure to the tritium-tainted water will cause widespread and unnecessary damage to people’s health and the natural environment. Authorities have yet to acknowledge that the contaminated water will likely travel untreated into the ocean and along the Eastern coast of Canada.

The Institute questions whether the nuclear industry and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) are fully aware of decades of medical evidence of the serious dangers to public health from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation, including birth defects and cancers. IICPH recommended the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to lower allowable levels of tritium in drinking water to a health-related standard.

IICPH founder Dr. Rosalie Bertell specializes in low dose ionizing radiation and argues that tritium should never be released into the Ottawa River. Institute coordinator Marion Odell reports, “Nuclear energy plants should at least limit their emissions to 10 becquerels per liter immediately. Ideally, tritium should not be released in our water, but that appears highly unlikely to be achieved until the nuclear facilities are closed.”

The Tritium Awareness Project February 2009 report states that the Canadian standard of 7000 becquerels of tritium per liter of water is 466 times higher than the standard in California. MPs Paul Dewar and Nathan Cullen have brought the matter to the House of Commons. Odell comments, “We commend the Tritium Awareness Project and the MPs for bringing facts about this disaster to public attention. IICPH supports their efforts to protect public health.”

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