Some people in the Charlemont Housing Scheme area of Linstead, St Catherine, are worried that the Thomas River that runs close to their houses and the West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO) may be causing them to fall ill.
They said the river, which is among tributaries of the Rio Cobre in Bog Walk, sometimes seems to be polluted with chemical waste.
The concerns were voiced during a community meeting held last evening at Charlemont Open Bible Church, where it was disclosed that residents are working with a team of scientists and lawyers to sue WINDALCO for allegedly releasing effluent that affects residents’ livelihood and health.
Hopeton Henry, President of the Charlemont Housing Scheme Citizens Association, indicated that a relatively high number of people who live near the Thomas River have cancer.
“The closest point to the river; let us call that ground zero. Within a radius of probably less than 200 metres, we count about nine persons [with cancers]; three or so died from cancer; two are cancer survivors,” he said.
Henry added: “You smell the caustic [soda] when the river overflows… Those persons on Guava Way next to the Thomas River experience this regularly.”
In the meantime, medical scientist Professor Winston Davidson, said rivers are historically known to transport agents that cause deadly diseases. He however noted that public health science has managed to curb that situation.
Professor Davidson added that, although it is common knowledge that people are more likely to contract cancers near bauxite plants, the cause|effect relationship may be tough to prove.
“A cause/effect relationship is a difficult thing to prove… We find that, in the bauxite area, there is the highest incidence of cancer of the prostate in the males, and when we look on some of the food stuff we see it high in Cadmium. Does Cadmium cause the prostate to enlarge and the prostate to turn cancerous? We have not proven it, but we know that we have one of the highest incidence of cancer of the prostrate especially in those areas,” added Professor Davidson, who also heads the University of Technology School of Public Health and Health Technology.
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