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Surveys into health issues in specific areas not ruled out

Ricky Brathwaite, the chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council (Photograph supplied)

The head of Bermuda’s health watchdog said a survey could potentially be conducted to determine whether people living in certain areas of the island are more susceptible to health complications.

Ricky Brathwaite, the Bermuda Health Council’s chief executive, spoke of the possibility in response to questions from The Royal Gazette about whether a study to determine the effects of pollution on the population was being considered.

Dr Brathwaite said that such a study would require funding from “entities like Belco”.

The Royal Gazette made inquiries after the issue of a geographical health study was discussed by the emissions regulator, the Environmental Authority.

A Pati request revealed that on September 21, Dr Brathwaite e-mailed Geoff Smith, the Government’s environmental engineer and adviser to the EA, to say: “One thing we may be able to do is look into identifying, in the future, people who have residence in specific areas of the island and start determining if their health outcomes are different that [sic] the rest of the population … or look for trends. But that would have to be a type of study that we would need to discuss in great detail.”

Dr Smith responded: “That would be good to explore through subsequent meetings.”

Dr Brathwaite added: “If we are to fulfil this request at some point, it will require investment from entities like Belco for a proper study to be done, data collected and proper analysis to be conducted.”

Dr Smith said that other potential funding sources could also be explored.

In response to questions about whether the Government would conduct such a study, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health told The Royal Gazette: “Although these studies are usually challenging to do because of the timescales and size of the population, the Ministry of Health supports any research that might identify links between polluting sources and potential effects on the public's health.”

The spokeswoman added: “The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the EA manage the pollution from controlled plants such as Belco, via operating licences issued under the Clean Air Act 1991.

“DENR has received many complaints from the public and the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition [a clean air advocacy group] with regards to emissions of soot, fumes and downdrafting of emissions from the Belco engines and associated infrastructure.

“Many of the questions posed by the public ask whether there are any long-term health impacts associated with being exposed to such pollution over a long period of time.

“As a result of these questions, DENR contacted the Department of Health, who recommended that we reach out to the Bermuda Hospitals Board Ethics Committee and the BHeC. The BHeC appeared to be the most appropriate organisation to manage such a request.

“It is noted that while Bermuda provides data to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on various diseases per population, this data is currently not subdivided into different geographical locations within Bermuda.”

Under the Clean Air Act, emission control orders can be issued if it appears that there is an air contaminant “that is, or is likely to be, injurious to life or health, or to be detrimental to property”.

An emission control order can serve to limit or control the rate of emission of the air contaminant, to stop the source from emitting the air contaminant either permanently or for a specified period, to ensure compliance with directions and to require the replacement, installation or alteration of equipment to rectify the problem.

A stop order can also be placed on a pollution source that “the minister considers to be an immediate danger to human life or property or both”. A stop order may require the contravention to be stopped.

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Published November 30, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated November 30, 2022 at 7:56 am)

Surveys into health issues in specific areas not ruled out

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