Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Health and Rail-tie Processing in Williams Lake. Part 1: The Issues

Creosote treated rail-ties contain large quantities of dioxins, PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) and chlorophenols that cause serious human illness. Dioxins and PAHs are known to include compounds that are listed as Group 1 Carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) while chlorophenols are listed as Group 2B Carcinogens (i.e., they are suspected carcinogens). In addition dioxins and chlorophenols are also known to cause serious adverse affects to many human organ systems at low concentrations, and in the case of dioxins, are very persistent in the environment (IARC 1997).

This is the first of a seven-part blog series looking at what is known regarding the chipping, burning, and disposal of creosote treated rail-ties within the city of Williams Lake. The intent is to provide an overview of how these rail-ties are being processed and burned within the city as well as how the residual ash is being discarded. In addition, I will attempt to provide a small amount of information about the legislation governing pollution and note some options for citizens concerned about the situation. I will attempt to post new parts of this series each day beginning Monday March 15th.

The series will include:
Part 1: The Issues
Part 2: Rail-tie chipping and the health risks of dioxins, chlorophenols, and PAHs.
Part 3: Rail-tie chipping and the risk of a fire within the city.
Part 4: Provincial pollution legislation.
Part 5: Rail-tie burning at Epcor (now Capital Power).
Part 6: Uncontrolled burning of stored wood at Epcor (now Capital Power).
Part 7: The disposal of rail-tie ash in Williams Lake


[IARC] International Agency for Reseach on Cancer. 1997. Polychlorinated Dibenzo-para-dioxins and Polychlorinated dibenzofurans. IARC Monograph Volume 69. 666p. Available from:

Photo: A view of the rail-tie chipping work area behind the Station House Gallery.
Photo Credit: R. Higgins

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