Bad air from Rio Tinto aluminum smelter forcing her to move, Kitimat resident says – by Andrew Kurjata and Robin Batchelor (CBC News British Columbia – August 23, 2016)

Move highlights continued battle between company and community over air quality in Kitimat

A Kitimat woman says she is being forced to leave the community due to sulphur dioxide emissions coming from Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter. Sheena Cooper blames an increase in SO2 [sulphur dioxide] in the air for a spate of asthma attacks that have put her in hospital and on increased medication.

“At this point, it’s we need to get out of this town so I can get healthy again,” Cooper said of the decision to move her, her husband and their two children to the nearby community of Terrace.

Cooper said she’s suffered from asthma since she was five years old, but until this year its effects have been mild. That changed in March, when she suffered a series of attacks and had to check into hospital seven times. She is now using prednisone, antibiotics and a higher dose of inhaler.

“Those are things that I’ve never had to do in my life,” she said. “I thought my asthma had improved so much living in Kitimat, but it seems — this is what I believe — that as soon as Rio Tinto started up their SO2, increased their emissions, my asthma just won’t stop flaring.”

Though he can’t be certain of the cause, Cooper’s doctor says it’s possible sulphur dioxide is behind her asthma attacks. “I do suspect the air quality predisposed my patient to an asthma flare-up,” wrote Dr. Brad Quon of the Pacific Lung Health Centre.

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