North

Uranium exposure insufficient to cause cancer in Deline workers: report

August 12, 2005

A report says scientific data does not show a link between cancer rates in Deline and the Port Radium mine.

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Men from the N.W.T. community men were hired to carry sacks of uranium ore from the mine, which opened in 1929 and operated for decades. Cancer cases started showing up and the community became known as the "Village of Widows" receiving widespread attention.

But, the report, which looks how much uranium a worker may have been exposed to over time, says those employees' exposure levels weren't high enough to cause cancer, contradicting widely held opinions by many local people.

Dr. Douglas Chambers, a radioactivity expert hired to double check the team's scientific data, says he believes the science is solid.

"The Deline to my knowledge never worked underground at Port Radium. The potential risk of cancer associated with transporting the ore concentrate is extremely small and in fact so small it would not be detectable in the variability of natural cancers and factors of effect cancers such as smoking," says Chambers.

The contamination controversy prompted the creation of the Deline Uranium Team five years ago. The team, made up of federal officials, members of the Deline community and scientists, spent $6.5 million doing studies, including this soon-to-be-released report.

Not all the studies involved in the project are based on hard science. Traditional studies, including oral histories, environmental surveys and mental health reports are also part of the final report. Residents say those studies also need to be taken seriously.

The bulk of that report was presented to the community of Deline this year but hasn't been made public.

No one from the community was willing to speak to CBC until after the final report is more widely released. It was supposed to come out last spring, but was delayed several times. The final report is now expected to be published in early September.

Deline is a community of about 650 people, primarily of aboriginal descent, located on the southwest shore of Great Bear Lake, in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories.

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