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Workers in coal industry suffer no negative health effects, says union leader

Oct 9, 2014

Vancouver Sun
Mark Gordienko
October 9, 2014

Re: Coal dust seen as serious environmental threat: poll, Oct. 6,

I was stunned to see The Vancouver Sun story quoting a poll that wrongly claimed that coal dust is a “serious environmental threat” without any explanation, scientific proof or response from those who work in the coal industry and clearly disagree.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are working up to their knees in coal every day with no negative health effects. Other unions whose members either mine or transport coal by rail will agree.

If there were problems, our union would be the first to sound the alarm and demand changes to protect members. But our health and safety records show that ILWU members have worked in direct contact with massive amounts of coal for decades with no negative impact on their health.

Yet we hear from critics claiming that coal dust “kills Canadians” in over the top statements with no basis in fact.

Our members working with coal are more than willing to debate the issue — but only based on reality, not wild and unsubstantiated claims from opponents.

Your story says that “Just 43 per cent of respondents said they were confident the coal would be handled properly and without problems” while not mentioning that 49 per cent disagreed, a gap of just six per cent in a poll with a margin of error of 3.7 per cent.

In other words, regardless of the biased presentation of the question in the poll, public opinion is still split, without any contrary facts given about the safety of coal.

We are disappointed that The Vancouver Sun would run this story that unfairly alarms the public and attacks the hard work our members do as part of the over $3-billion-a-year coal contributes to B.C.’s economy while disregarding fundamental information.

MARK GORDIENKO, President, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Click here to view the original letter in the Vancouver Sun

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