The Kanien'kéha:ka community of Kanesatake has been used as an inexpensive dumping ground for presumed contaminated materials from nearby construction and industrial sites for over half a century. Community members fear that these materials represent an important hazard to their health.
This study was the first to perform a preliminary characterization of the pollutants presumed to be present in the Kanesatake environment. Largely community-based, the study identified areas of concern with suspected high levels of environmental contaminants where sampling and laboratory analyses were prioritized. Soil, water and plants, including medicinal plants, were sampled from 97 randomly selected sites of concern across Kanesatake. The samples were analyzed for heavy metal and organic pollutant concentrations. Concurrently, the study performed a human health risk assessment (HHRA) based on food frequency questionnaires completed by community participants and the levels of contaminants measured in the analyzed samples.
The study found that heavy metal concentrations exceeded guideline limits (i.e., the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines) in some sites. The contamination was detected in some soil and plant samples, but not in water samples. The study recommended further sampling in the sites where heavy metal contamination was found to exceed guideline limits, which may help to shed further insight on the impact of pollutants in the area.