Monday, November 18, 2013

Health Impacts Downwind of the Alberta Oil Sands

Heavy air pollution in Canadian areas with excess cancers(MNT, Oct. 23, 2013)

Also discussed here: Study documents heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes(UC Health, Oct. 22, 2013)

And here: Study says pollution, cancer a match near Canada industry(Orange County Register, Oct. 21. 2013)

And here: Oil sands pollution comparable to a large power plant(American Geophysical Union Press Release, Feb. 22, 2012)

And here: Air quality over the Canadian oil sands: A first assessment using satellite observations(Abstract, C. A. McLinden, V. Fioletov, K. F. Boersma, N. Krotkov, C. E. Sioris, J. P. Veefkind, K. Yang, Geophysical Research Letters, Feb. 2012)

Today we review research based on ground air quality monitors and remote satellite air quality imagery that points to the elevated levels of carcinogenic air pollution, downwind of oil sands processing plants in western Canada. This moves the debate about the Alberta oil sands from one about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to one about direct health impacts, such as leukemia, for those who live downwind of these utilities. The findings indicated levels of volatile pollutants such as benzene higher than found in large polluted cities elsewhere in the world. It also underlined the value of taking actual measurements of air quality near industrial plants rather than depending on assumptions from models and stack emissions, as is the case with many urban incinerators, such as the Plasco municipal waste disposal plant near Ottawa. oil sands aq  

Key Quotes:

“found high levels of airborne pollutants, including the carcinogens 1,3-butadiene and benzene, downwind of Canada's industrial heartland in Alberta.”

“found higher levels of leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma in men living near the pollution plumes than in neighboring areas not close to the pollution.”

 "Our study was designed to test what kinds of concentrations could be encountered on the ground during a random visit downwind of various facilities. We're seeing elevated levels of carcinogens and other gases in the same area where we're seeing excess cancers known to be caused by these chemicals."

 “The scientists took 1-minute outdoor air samples at random times in 2008, 2010 and 2012, in Fort Saskatchewan…All the samples showed similar results, including levels 6,000 higher than normal for some dangerous volatile organic compounds”

 "These levels, found over a broad area, are clearly associated with industrial emissions….They also are evidence of major regulatory gaps in monitoring and controlling such emissions and in public health surveillance."

“samples had higher levels of some chemicals than some of the world's most heavily polluted cities. When compared with air samples taken in Mexico City in the 1990s and in today's Houston-Galveston area - known to have high pollution - researchers found Alberta's samples contained more contaminants.”

“In the first look at the overall effect of air pollution from the excavation of oil sands, also called tar sands, in Alberta, Canada, scientists used satellites to measure nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted from the industry. In an area 30 kilometers (19 miles) by 50 kilometers (31 miles) around the mines, they found elevated levels of these pollutants.”
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