Trail continues to have a higher rate of cases for chronic intestinal illnesses like Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) compared to all other health authorities in British Columbia.
Current research also shows that men are disproportionately affected compared to females.
These observations were extrapolated from the latest data Dr. Tom Kosatsky, from the BC Centre for Disease Control, presented to the Trail Health and Environment Committee (THEC) at a June 4 meeting.
“The data shows a higher rate of cases of IBD in Trail when compared to all of Interior Health,” explained Dr. Karin Goodison, an Interior Health physician who helped break down Dr. Kosatksy’s findings for the Trail Times.
“This may be due to many factors, including physician practices, access to services, and an actual higher amount of disease in the community,” she said.
“Connecting the data points from different sources helps us examine how likely this is to be a true finding: there are relatively more visits to doctors, hospitalizations and dispensing of medications that are used to treat IBD, supporting that there is a higher incidence of IBD in Trail.”
The data also demonstrates the rate of Crohn’s disease is notably higher in Trail, and that Ulcerative Colitis rates are somewhat higher.
Further, statistics show the onset of illness is earlier in Trail.
“With apparently more severe disease,” Dr. Goodison noted. “And more likely to impact males than females.”
She cautions that there are limitations to this data, such as smaller numbers of hospitalizations, given the smaller population of Trail.
More so, it cannot take into account other factors that may influence rates of IBD, such as family relationships (genetics), or individual risk factors such as smoking.
“We do not know the cause of this higher rate,” said Dr. Goodison.
“We intend to review this data with local physicians to aid our interpretation of the data.”
These updated estimates on IBD occurrences were presented to THEC, because this committee oversees the Trail area health and environment program. (THEC is a partnership between the local community, Teck, Interior Health and the BC Ministry of Environment).
“The THEC remains focused on the health of our community,” said Lisa Pasin, Trail mayor and THEC chair.
“This study builds on the review that was done in 2013, and the direction we heard from the BCCDC was that further study may be completed over the coming years to help us better understand the data.”
The last time the Times reported on local incidences of digestive disease in Trail was six years ago, or shortly after a U.S. law firm indicated it was filing a suit on behalf of Northport residents claiming their cluster of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis diagnoses was related to historic pollution discharged by Teck.
Dr. Kosatsky heard about the lawsuit in numerous media reports and, in 2013, decided to collate data as a timely way to study the occurrence of IBD in Trail.
His summarized report, which included insight about disease clusters from Interior Health’s Dr. Andrew Larder, was presented to Trail council and the environmental committee in December that year.
(Of note, is that during that meeting, Dr. Larder stated that any relationship between IBD and environmental pollutants had no known connection and were entirely speculative.)
Back then, based on data from 2007 to 2011, Dr. Kosatsky’s findings showed the rate of IBD occurrences was higher in Trail compared with neighbouring communities and the rest of the province.
However, he also reported the number of occurrences was actually on the downswing over that five-year period.
His 2013 study included 235 patients diagnosed with the disease in Trail, 154 diagnosed in Nelson, and 99 cases in Williams Lake.
Regarding the American lawsuit against Teck, the case was withdrawn in 2015.
This was confirmed to the Trail Times by Teck spokesperson Catherine Adair.