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Alberta Tar Sands pollution evidence is devastating

By Dave Armstrong - 22 Jul 2014 10:15:0 GMT
Alberta Tar Sands pollution evidence is devastating

The tailings ponds, the atmosphere, the slash and burn approach to forests are all part of the problem, but what stands out in Northern Alberta is the attitude to local communities and the lack of study into the effects on their health; Tar sands image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Close to the massive spread of tar sand extraction near Fort McMurray and the upgrading facilities at Edmonton, the University of Manitoba has reported that evidence for pollution and higher cancer risk is overwhelming. With the Keystone XL pipeline to the US forthcoming, the health situation can only get even worse. Apart from Keystone, we have also noted the hazardous Canadian exports and their associated particle pollution problems in Pet coke expands, and pollutes everywhere.

Cancers of the lymph and blood-forming systems and leukaemia are more frequent around Edmonton and this seems to be linked to elevated levels of what the journal Atmospheric Environment called, "numerous hazardous air pollutants." The Energy Regulator for Alberta has reported problems from tar sand emissions. The have led so far to families leaving the area, complaining of noxious smells, nausea, headaches, skin rash, memory loss, joint pain, exhaustion and respiratory problems.

PAH is the abbreviation for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which tend to be carcinogenic. Since the 1980s, benzopyrene and 6 other PAH have been found in freshwater sediments throughout the Athabasca watershed. The levels of these compounds exceed current Canadian standards, but methyl mercury levels in the same sediments are increasing exponentially! This well-known neurotoxin is liable to cause many developmental, behavioural and cardiovascular problems, going by its past record in cases such as the Minamata disease in Japan.

The connection with methyl mercury is that it is within 30 miles of Alberta's tar sand upgrade facilities. The local communities are aghast at this situation. The tar sand "tailings ponds" are full of heavy metals, PAH, and now methyl mercury. The atmosphere is obviously affected (by the smell) and health of children and adults is in a downward spiral. They demand that prominent gaps in Federal action and Alberta's governance must be filled with health studies.

The neglect is obvious. World Health Organisation study is being encouraged by the communities and 2 First Nations organisations (including the Mikasew Cree and the ACFN.) Ecowatch drew our attention to this current situation in - Higher Cancer Rates and Tainted Local Foods Linked to Tar Sands Operations.