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NEWS: Study confirms increased levels of cancer-causing compounds from tar sands

The New York Times reports, “The development of Alberta’s oil sands has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study released on Monday. And they said the contamination covered a wider area than had previously been believed.”

“For the study, financed by the Canadian government, the researchers set out to develop a historical record of the contamination, analyzing sediment dating back about 50 years from six small and shallow lakes north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, the center of the oil sands industry. Layers of the sediment were tested for deposits of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, groups of chemicals associated with oil that in many cases have been found to cause cancer in humans after long-term exposure.”

“The researchers found that the levels of those deposits have been steadily rising since large-scale oil sands production began in 1978 (contrary to what industry has been saying, that the pollution is ‘natural’). Samples from one test site, the paper said, now show 2.5 to 23 times more PAHs in current sediment than in layers dating back to around 1960.”

In December 2009, the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail reported on an independent study that ‘found deposits of bitumen particulates within a 50-kilometre radius around Suncor and Syncrude’s upgraders’, that estimated ‘about 34,000 tonnes of particulates are falling every year near Suncor’s and Syncrude’s facilities’, and that ‘those particles carry 3.5 tonnes of raw bitumen and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAC)’, the ‘equivalent to a major oil spill, repeated annually’.

In 2007 Health Canada laid complaints, including causing ‘undue alarm’, against Dr. John O’Connor who had raised concerns about a possible link between the tar sands and cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan.

The New York Times article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/world/americas/oil-sand-industry-in-canada-tied-to-higher-carcinogen-level.html?_r=0. The media reports on the 2009 study are at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=2163. The Edmonton Journal article about Dr. O’Connor is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=1972.