I sat in at the city council meeting Monday night, but left shortly after the presentation by Vancouver Coastal Health in relation to the stench emanating from the Harvest Power organics recycling plant.
In that presentation, the representatives confirmed their opinion that, although the smell may elicit negative symptoms, there is insufficient evidence and no data to support the notion the smell would make someone sick — even though it might aggravate a person’s asthma condition. There appeared to be consensus we need proof people are becoming sick, due to the smell, in order for this to become a public health matter.
VCH concluded it was the wrong public body to deal with the issue, as if “increase in illness” is thesine qua non of their involvement. However, VCH could find grounds to issue an “edict” in relation to Harvest if we understand its mission goes beyond containing medical illness, vaccinations, epidemics, etc.
Over the years, there has been a shift in public health focus towards community wellness. It has been proven wellness funding is a far more effective approach to public health management than focusing on disease and medical funding. As a community, we have invested millions in fitness facilities and community sports.
A video produced by Dr. Mike Evans from Toronto concludes that walking just 30 minutes a day would mitigate most known diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, by 40 to 50 per cent.
In fact, 30 minutes of walking was found to be more effective in promoting health than more strenuous activities such as gym fitness, sports, jogging etc.
If the population of Richmond is now feeling confined to their quarters due to the smell and is not spending time walking on the dyke and on the city’s paths, we would be aggravating public wellness.
That, I would argue, is the key for VCH to enter the fray from a public health perspective and use its public health powers to assist us in the battle to stop the stink in Richmond.