Maintaining the mess

Officials say proper care will prevent dumps from becoming health hazards

With the rays beating down on the ever-growing piles of garbage, some residents have begun to worry about what potential health problems the strike may cause.

“Leaving the garbage in the parks, with rodents and that, it’s not very pleasant for this city of ours,” said Peter Radolli.

The Toronto resident isn’t too pleased with the garbage piling outside his house and says he is worried about his children’s well-being.

“You put the garbage outside — rodents, raccoons — with the kids playing outside you never know, I’m not really happy with the situation,” he said.

Radolli isn’t the only one feeling that way.

“The health concern is primarily with the garbage as well as the odours and the bacteria that’s formed with the garbage as it grows,” said Bill Street, father of a two-year-old.

“Right now the temperature is pretty cool so it’s not too bad, but once we start getting the hot, humid weather — if the strike is still on — there are a lot of dump sites and there are a lot of families and communities that are going to be affected by it.”

With heaps of garbage attracting swarming flies, pesky rodents and hungry raccoons, it’s no wonder many are starting to worry.

Toronto Public Health says its medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, is monitoring the situation very closely for any signs of possible health issues that may arise due to the strike.

Each dump is monitored on a daily basis.

“Temporary waste sites are not necessarily health hazards if they are properly managed,” public health spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said. “And we are satisfied the city has an adequate plan to manage the sites.”

And though Dr. James Scott, professor at the University of Toronto’s
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, agrees that the current situation
does not present an urgent risk to the health of the general public,
there is a group of people he is quite concerned about.

“My greater concern is for the health of workers when they return to
their jobs following the resolution of the strike,” he said in an email. “As
garbage sits and microbes and vermin flourish, the level of hazard in
handling these materials increases substantially.”

Scott said the greatest hazards to be expected will be illnesses due to food poisoning-type bacteria.

“The increase in rodent and other pest populations also carries a risk
to the spread of other diseases,” he said. “Fungal exposures are also a
major worry once all of these materials start to get disrupted.”

Health problems that may occur include simple allergies, as
well as other more serious diseases such as hypersensitivity
pneumonitis and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, Scott said. “But the greatest risk will to be to the workers themselves and in my opinion the worker risk is already serious.”

Recently McKeown made a public request to let pest control officials spray the dump sites to prevent the spread of diseases.

“Without pest control and odour measures, the sites would attract
insects and rodents which are vectors for disease,” Aikins said.

But Scott argues that spraying the garbage with pesticides will not only be useless, but actually serve to increase potential hazards to strays, like cats and dogs.

“The placement of poison baits is likely to affect wayward pets much more effectively than crafty raccoons and rats.”


About this article:

By: Rima Ramoul
Posted: Jul 6 2009 3:29 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto