Health Council Identifies Environmental Health Concerns 
by Louann Scallion Morine
UPdate Winter 2001

      On November l, the Provincial Health Council issued its report, Health for Nova Scotians. The report, containing 12 broad recommendations, is the result of province wide public consultations. The Council was mandated by Premier John Hamm to hold public consultations to develop a list of core services to be provided at the community, regional and provincial levels. From January to March 2000, the council distributed questionnaires, consulted community health plans and held public meetings across the province to gather input from Nova Scotians on health services.
     Health for Nova Scotians contains issues that arose from the information gathered, including a widespred concern about environmental illnesses and the effect our surroundings have on our health.

      Respondents expressed concern about the lack of government funding and facilities to treat people with environmental illness and multiple chemical sensitivities."We need people trained in environmental illness," stated a person who attended a public meeting in Glace Bay.

     Another person explained that "chemical illness develops into cancer. The health system is failing people who suffer from environmental illness. The side effects include depression and ... psychological damage. People think it is all in your head, that there is no real physical illness. The reality [is it] can lead to anaphylactic

       People described problems receiving medical help for allergies to food
additives, and attempts to receive treatment for sensitivities to chemicals,
carpeting and underlay, foam cushions, modern furniture, building materials and
sealed buildings.They discussed the impact allergies and environmental illness have upon their lives. Some must renovate their houses to eliminate dust, some are unable to leave their homes to work. Some sufferers are dealing with reduced incomes, and must travel long distances to receive medical attention, which can be

       People across the province were concerned about having clean water to drink and bathe in, clean soil and chemical-free food. Residents of Cape Breton were
especially concerned about the toxins and pollution in the air, water and soil.
One person who attended a meeting in Glace Bay stated that "we have the highest
level of environmental illness in the country." 

       The issue of clean air was repeated in public meetings, questionnaires and
reports submitted to the council. Air pollution created by factories, mills,
cigarette smoke and sick buildings were said to be the cause of respiratory
problems.   People WHERE stated that smoking must be eliminated at the regional hospital, and others in the province cited air quality problems as a result of the disrepair of hospitals.

       The issue of clean water was also prevalent, as people related stories of contaminated water supplies and their effects on health. Residents stated that they would like to see Sydney Harbour and Halifax Harbour cleaned up and not have untreated sewage flow into them. A community-based study on the components of a
healthy life submitted to the council discussed the impact the environment has on health, stating that illness prevention through an improved physical environment is essential. It listed ecological concerns raised by members of its community, including control over pesticide use, regular and free water testing, control of air pollution from factories and increased availability of organically grown foods.

       Nova Scotians throughout the province  felt that the health of the population is aided by having clean air, water and soil, and serious health problems result when these elements are polluted.

       The committee's recommendations are similar to those released more than seven years ago by a previous health council.  Chairperson Barbara Hart noted "we found Nova Scotians were saying many of the same things then that they told
us... This is not a good thing, since people do not feel they have been listened to."


Louanne Scallion Morine is a staff person at the N.S. Health Council. More information on the N.S. Provincial Health Council.