Rouyn-Noranda: up to 14 more cases of cancer if arsenic levels are maintained

Rouyn-Noranda: up to 14 more cancer cases if levels of arsenic are maintained


While in Rouyn-Noranda, where the Horne Foundry is singled out for its pollutant emissions, Dr. Luc Boileau, national director of public health, believes that the status quo is not acceptable for the health of the population. 

“For me, maintaining arsenic emissions at the current level is not tolerable considering the health impacts that are known. These emissions must be reduced to acceptable levels,” he argued during a press briefing.

Last June, Radio-Canada revealed that Dr. Horacio Arruda, then national director of public health, had prevented in 2019 the dissemination of data on lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda, which is higher in the region. Dr. Arruda then explained that he was acting as a “deputy minister”.

The Horne Foundry could be responsible for this situation, according to many health professionals. Its emissions of arsenic into the air are currently capped, by acquired right, at a level of 100 nanograms per cubic meter, while the standard set by the Ministry of the Environment is rather three nanograms per cubic meter. /p>

“I think there is a difference between the acceptable level and the three nanograms. The three nanograms is a standard established by the ministry, to which a certain risk is added, ”weighted Dr. Boileau, who believes that discussions will have to take place as to the risk deemed acceptable.

More cancer

On Wednesday morning, the National Institute of Public Health finally published its report on the situation in Rouyn-Noranda. If the status quo continues, there could be 13 to 554 additional cases of lung cancer per million population. Figures that would drop to 6.7 and 288 additional cases if emissions in the city were lowered to Quebec standards.

The INSP calculation is based on a 24-hour exposure scenario, seven days weeks, for 70 years.

“We go far beyond the normally acceptable risks that we want to avoid when we are exposed to such contaminants. It is not because these figures represent smaller risks in terms of number that we should avoid the challenge that this represents, ”explained Dr. Boileau.

Public Health will nevertheless do more studies over the next few weeks to understand “as quickly as possible” the causes of the current situation, and whether other factors may contribute to this greater risk of suffering from lung cancer.

“Over the next few weeks, and the next few months, we will move forward on this file with transparency, rigor and speed. We don't want to prolong the pleasure of studying for years to confirm things, “said Dr. Boileau.

Possible closure

Tuesday, in In a press scrum, Quebec Premier François Legault said he would not hesitate to close the Horne Smelter if it could not reduce its emissions to a level deemed safe, adding that discussions were underway with the company.

“Either they reduce emissions to a level that respects the health of citizens, or, unfortunately, we will have to close the company. It will be one of the two. There will be no compromise for the health of citizens,” he insisted.

The Prime Minister had also indicated that the government could grant financial assistance so that the plant could bring it up to standard, but that it will also have to “invest significant amounts”.


Since the situation in Rouyn-Noranda has public, several health professionals are urging the government to act.

Last Sunday, about fifty doctors had signed an open letter calling for government action. The College of Physicians and the Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment both subsequently gave their support.

Tuesday, it was the turn of the Order of Chemists of Quebec to intervene in the debate, believing that the government and Glencore were “accountable” to the residents of Rouyn-Noranda.