Two former McGill University medical students who have developed leukaemia are suing the university for failing to renovate a laboratory that they claim is the probable cause of their condition.
Barry Mishkin, 33, and Lorne Aaron, 36, claim they are not the only former students to have fallen ill. Four others have been diagnosed with cancer. Two have since died.
Both suits claim that McGill negligently exposed those working in the building in the late 1980s and early 1990s to serious health risks and failed to inform them of those risks when it knew that the ventilating system was grossly inadequate. The former students cite an internal document highlighting the lack of proper safety conditions and an apparent high rate of miscarriages and building-related illnesses.
Dr Mishkin, who was unavailable for comment, has undergone intensive chemotherapy for three years. Dr Aaron has returned to work after being off sick for 11 months. He was also unavailable for comment.
McGill, in a written statement, denied any responsibility and said there was no proof of fault. "Coincidences are not evidence of cause and effect, either scientifically or legally."
But Pierre Philippe, a professor at the Universite de Montreal, said the cluster of a possible six cases of leukaemia was significant enough to cast the laboratory's environment as the probable cause of the illnesses.