Health study launched in Niger
November 17, 2005
Following concerns expressed by members of the public living in the Arlit region, but also after allegations made by certain associations concerning public health in communities near AREVA's uranium mines in Niger, the group announced in March 2005 that it intended to launch a large-scale health study on these groups.
Preparations began in September 2005, and the study itself entered the active phase today, November 16, 2005*. It centers on a clinical audit of the Arlit and Akokan hospitals and on an epidemiological study.
The fact-finding mission has been entrusted to two organizations specializing in epidemiological studies, Gispe and Quanta Medical. AREVA, which is funding the audit, has ensured the auditors of their complete independence with regard to the method used, the information collected and the content of their report. The mission will be carried out in association with the Nigerian Ministries of Health and Mining.
The study should be finalized by the end of December 2005 and its conclusions will be made public in accordance with our commitment to transparency.
1. Clinical audit of the hospitals
The first part of the mission involves a clinical audit of the hospitals of the two mining companies that operate the Arlit uranium mines: Somair (Société des mines de l'Air), which operates an open pit uranium mine 7 kilometers northwest of Arlit, and Cominak (Compagnie minière d'Akouka), which mines uranium below ground 6 kilometers southwest of Arlit. Both hospitals care for employees of the mining companies, their relatives, and the residents of the mining town.
The audit is aimed at assessing the quality of medical recordkeeping and record content, and the veracity of the information in the records.
A sampling plan was drawn up by a statistician to select on a random basis 100 records per hospital. These records are of employees of the mining companies, their relatives, and patients in the mining town. The methodology to be followed is based on the methodology of the French agency for health establishment accreditation (ANAES), adjusted for local conditions. The patient records, hospital records and information from patient interviews will be cross-checked.
At the end of the mission, audit results will be compiled, enabling analysts to draw qualitative and quantitative conclusions (potential discordance and dysfunction) and to recommend paths toward improvement.
At the same time, voluntary meetings will be organized between doctors in the fact-finding mission and patients concerned about their health and skeptical about the veracity of the information provided to them. In particular, patients who have expressed fears to associations or local NGOs will be contacted on a strictly confidential basis with regard to the mining companies.
2. Epidemiological study
The second part of the mission consists of an epidemiological study based on the medical records of patients at both hospitals.
The key objectives are to:
· assess the prevalence of pathologies presented by employees of the mining company and members of the public living near the uranium mines, and particularly the prevalence of pathologies potentially caused by uranium dust and radiation;
· compare the prevalence levels observed in the subject population of the Arlit region to prevalence levels observed in a comparable population not subject to the risk of exposure to uranium dust and radiation.
*the first fact-finding mission will be conducted from November 15 to 29. The working group will then study the audit report for conclusions and potentially recommend additional analyses and investigations targeting certain pathologies.
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