Canadian border agents at risk of cancer

Workers guarding the Canada-US border are at a higher risk of developing cancer, according to researchers.

Their report, published online in the peer-reviewed journal New Solutions in November 2018, examined evidence from a workers’ compensation case involving a female border guard who worked for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on the Ambassador Bridge for 20 years before developing breast cancer.

Both authors of the paper, Jim Brophy and Michael Gilbertson, were expert witnesses in the case. The Ambassador Bridge “is the largest truck-crossing point in the continent… It’s one of the most polluted areas in the country,” said Brophy, a Windsor, Ontario based occupational health expert.

He said the exposure to harmful chemicals like diesel fuel and vehicle exhaust is extremely dangerous for border agents and added many are also exposed to second-hand smoke.

He added the number of border guards who have developed cancer over time isn’t clearly defined, but said that piece of data is something the union Public Service Alliance of Canada is calling for. “Maybe as many as 20 or 30. We don’t know exactly how many. That’s one of the major issues that are facing both the people at the bridge and at the tunnel — and the union,” he said.

Though there’s a “strong scientific case for a causal relationship between occupational exposures of frontline female border guards” and the development of cancer, the report says, the CBSA officer still lost her compensation claim.

Brophy said that’s the result of compensation cases being handled like criminal matters, in which claims are denied if there are any doubts that an employee’s environment resulted in cancer. He said he believes the evidence “points toward the direction that there is an association between these exposures and the risks for this disease.”


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