Six test positive for toxic metal cobalt in Labrador

Report of cases in remote Labrador region comes as province declares state of emergency over record lake levels

Six people have tested positive for the highly toxic metal cobalt, which is also used in car batteries, in a confirmed case in a remote Labrador region, health officials announced on Thursday.

The unnamed individual was admitted to a hospital in New Glasgow in the province’s Eastern Kootenay region, which includes the smallest area of the nation, the Labrador Sea, on 26 August.

Six people from the province’s La Dévêque region who had been to the northern region since last November tested positive for COOVID-19 in late July. The people are believed to have been exposed to cobalt or other cobalt from soil, water or air.

With four confirmed cases, New Brunswick, Quebec and Labrador have the most confirmed cases of cobalt in the country since the Minnesota US Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began testing in 2015.

The province declared a state of emergency over heavy lake levels on the famed Richelieu river last week and said urgent measures may have to be taken.

“It’s not yet known exactly what’s happening in terms of the levels of cobalt and other metals in our soils and groundwater,” province’s environmental protection minister, Andrew Younger, told the CBC.

Most of the health officials believe that the increased incidence of illnesses is due to increased water usage and increased air emissions in the region.

The government said it hoped there would be no need for further health advisories and no immediate need for the government to step in.

One of the most obvious effects of the detected amounts of airborne and airborne particles with high amounts of cobalt is the signifying sound that can come from inhalation of the normally very minor nano particle.

Younger said that he and a focus group of the 33,000 residents in the region are considering whether or not to ban artificial flame retardants known as flammability inhibiting agents (FFA), which could reduce the exposure of students and children to the potentially harmful emissions.

Clean Air Quebec, a group of environmental authorities in southern Quebec, issued a health advisory in 2005 stating that exposure to a single particle of FFA particle from a fireplace puts a person at risk of death. A year later, the group revised its warning following the discovery of FFA particles in the Toronto air.

In the case of the Kootenay region residents of Labrador who drank contaminated water from Shady Brook Lake that was subsequently tainted by dissolved metal during storm water run-off, contaminated water is also thought to be a major cause of illness in the community.

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