At odds

Trust makes shocking charge about sudden deaths

In an explosive contention that puts it at odds with health officials, a well-respected environmental organization here is warning of a possible link between the current spate of premature deaths and the quality of the island’s drinking water.

The Future Centre Trust which raised the red flag in an interview with Barbados TODAY Thursday afternoon, is also questioning the official position of health authorities, who are associating the deaths to non-communicable diseases [NCDs] and Barbadians’ lifestyle.

The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) must have thought it had put this issue to bed when last month it was forced to deny reports circulating on social media that the sudden deaths – many of them in public, including at work and on the road – were due to the existence of lead in new water metres that had been rejected in Canada.

In seeking to dispel the “erroneous reports”, the BWA said at that the time that the procurement of the new HYDRUS Ultrasonic water metres followed stringent guidelines, consultation and approval of the Barbados National Standards Institute (BNSI).

An official statement said the BWA, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Department, the Ministry of Environment and Drainage and the Environmental Health Inspectorate of the Ministry of Health, had a comprehensive and long-standing water quality monitoring programme which involved the bacteriological and chemical testing and analysis of water samples through the Government Analytical Services Laboratory and MDS Laboratories in Florida.

However, the Future Centre Trust is contending that authorities might still be falling short of the testing mark.

“Nobody tests for hydrocarbons on the roadside in Barbados . . . nobody tests for the nitrogen dioxides on the streets of Barbados, and I know there are many water soluble chemicals that probably could be within our water. But who test for those?

Kammie Holder
Kammie Holder

“I’m saying the time is right where we need to also now look at what we’re testing for in our water and look at increasing the number of things we test for.  The jury is out on what is causing so many people to come down with serious ailments,” Advocacy Director Kammie Holder said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has explained that NCDs were responsible for the 24 sudden deaths between late January and mid-June. There were 21 such deaths during the corresponding period last year, he said.

Regional health expert Dr Tomo Kanda has also said the spate of sudden deaths was not unique to Barbados, as
other Caribbean Community countries suffered from similar high rates of the lifestyle illnesses that lead to premature deaths.

While admitting that NCDs were posing a serious threat to the Barbadian population, Holder cautioned citizens to pay more attention to how their health was being affected by environmental factors.

“When you have NCDs where you are now hearing that for every one person dying from HIV, there are 35 persons with NCDs. Now NCDs don’t only come from eating lifestyle yuh know, they also come from the toxic environment you have. You have issues now, where diesel is being linked to persons developing diabetes and very few persons seem to be aware of that,” he added.

The United States-based Environment and Human Health, Inc (EHHI),  a ten-member science-based organization composed of physicians public health professionals and policy experts, has reported that scientific experts believe that illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and diabetes are exacerbated by environmental conditions.

Holder is therefore fearful that the proposed construction of a Canadian-owned solar farm on lands at Waterford Plantation, St Michael could add insult to injury regarding “still unresolved” environmental issues affecting Barbadians.

Stating that he supported a solar farm in principle, the environmentalist expressed concern over the possible impact of the manufacturing aspect of the operation.

“I don’t know if they will be manufacturing or assembling the PVC cells in Barbados. By nature, PVC manufacturing is a very dirty industry as it relates to by-products. I have no issue with the assembling of those PV cells, but I do have a problem, should they be seeking to manufacture the cells in Barbados,” he stressed.

Holder noted that there were still unsettled environmental disputes related to an oil spill at Gibbons Bogg, Christ Church where farmers cannot plant or reap because the land has been condemned; another spill on the former Mobil Oil Refinery at Graves End where the responsibility for cleaning up was being contested, and the dust problems at Checker Hall, St Lucy.

“So I’m saying in the absence of environmental justice, we need to get things right before we take on these sorts of environmental projects,” the Future Centre Trust Advocacy Director said.

6 Responses to At odds

  1. Tony Webster August 5, 2016 at 5:18 am

    Environmental Protection Unit needs to also regularly TEST THE AIR for particulates, and for chemicals coming out of our 70,000 + vehicles….and yes…publish the results. Such test results are NOT a national secret…these test results belong to us. PUBLISH the results of ALL such tesing please!

  2. Olutoye Walrond August 5, 2016 at 8:15 am

    This seems to be one wild piece of speculation. I was reading to find out what credible links had been discovered between our water supply and these deaths. There were none.

  3. Sam Pillie August 5, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Until our Environmental Protection Unit test the quality of water entering and exiting these new water meters, the public will always have concerns. They must do some water test so as to eliminate these meters and water as the cause so that we can start tackle other areas or concern.

    In Canada where I lived for some time, you cannot leave a vehicle idling for more than two(2) minutes or you can be arrested for contaminating the air.

    So the Environmental Protection Unit have it’s work cut out in order to provide answers to the public before the visitors to this country think that it’s unsafe to come.

    I would certainly help the EPU in any way I can.

  4. Sunshine Sunny Shine August 5, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Hi Kammie. I think you are way off base on this one hon. First let me say that you are/may be right on the level of environmental testing needed to be done by the authority that has the ”competency”. Notice that I bracketed the word competency. After all, some of the state agencies responsible for public health and environmental issues have more often than not exhibited less than the stellar approach needed to show they are on top of things and fully understand the science needed to prove that they understand what they are doing. However, where I tend to disagree with you is the suggestion that the deaths may be linked to the water we drink. For example, the representation of sudden ‘drop dead’ deaths from a population of around 300 thousand persons is not significant enough to be tied to our drinking water. They are just too many variables to conclude that it is our H2O particularly when the authorities have provided stats to support the NCDs claims as a more viable reason, and the fact that the remaining population drinking the water is not dropping dead at alarming rates. If you can proffer another explanation that is better than what I consider to be a voice speaking from a place of fustrated advocacy, please free to provide.

    The obvious alarming number of deaths would raise a red flag since the time intervals between each death are too close not to be concerned. But, epidiemological science would delve a little deeper into the history, background, lifestyles and eating habits of those suddenly dying to draw factual conclusions.

    Not good Kammie to draw such inference from a non factual position, unless the FCT has already conducted their own research and experiments.

  5. Alex Alleyne August 5, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Should also look into “headaches” caused by the new light and power meter that are placed on homes.

  6. Sherlock Holmes. August 5, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Ever heard of an attention seeker? Or more so a mad wannabee scientist? Well folks i think we have one here.


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