Investigate breast cancer cases at Ambassador Bridge, says customs union and researcher

Jane McArthur

Anecdotal reports of 10 to 20 or more cases of breast cancer among Ambassador Bridge workers has a University of Windsor researcher and the union representing customs workers calling for an investigation.

“It is extremely alarming,” Customs and Immigration Union President Jean-Pierre Fortin said from Ottawa Wednesday. “We’re counting on the government and on the employer which in this case would be Canada Border Services Agency to take the appropriate measure to protect our members from that.”

Fortin said the employer should fund the study. The issue has been a concern for years with the Customs and Immigration Union which is part of PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada).

Jane McArthur, a University of Windsor PhD candidate in sociology and social justice, is studying women’s knowledge of breast cancer risks. In her interviews with 25 customs and duty-free shop workers she heard there may be 10 to 20 or more cases of breast cancer in the last 20 years.

“This is undocumented at this point but there is a level of concern among the women workers there that there is an elevated incident of breast cancer and many of them hope for and wanted a future study that could formally document the real numbers of cases there,” she said Wednesday. “This is something that warrants a formal investigation.”

McArthur wasn’t trying to document numbers of cases and hasn’t made a list of who had breast cancer. Her research that involved interviews that lasted up to three hours with 25 women, mostly customs workers, was more concerned with what women knew about their risk for breast cancer. She will present her preliminary findings Saturday during a poster session at an international cancer research conference in Windsor.

“I was surprised when I heard some women say 30 or more women with breast cancer.”

A Canada Border Services Agency spokesman did not get back to the Star Wednesday afternoon on the call for funding a study.

McArthur said the women interviewed wondered about the effect of the vehicle exhaust, stress and shift work had on their risk of breast cancer.

Research suggests air pollution and vehicle exhaust are associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer, she said.

McArthur is hoping a further study could document how many and what type of breast cancers were found, and encourage policies that would mitigate the work exposure at the new bridge. The study would also be important for compensation for women with breast cancer if it is linked to their work.

She’s hoping to have a draft thesis done by the spring and make the results public in June. The women’s identities are confidential and they range in age from their early 20s to 70s.

The Windsor Cancer Research Group is hosting its Fourth Biennial International Cancer Research Conference Saturday at Caesars Windsor. About 150 to 170 people are expected at the conference that gives health care workers, students and people who study cancer a chance to showcase the latest cancer research being done in Windsor-Essex, Southwestern Ontario and Michigan.

Source: The Windsor Star