Oil sands fumes linked to families' health woes, Alberta regulator concludes

Report links oil sands pollution to dizziness, fatigue, and headaches in Alberta's northwest -- while another report clears the industry of cancer concerns in Fort Chipewyan area

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But critically, the numbers of cases are low, and "the overall cancer rate in the community is not significantly higher than expected," stated Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Still, another area of concern is in the "Industrial Heartland" east of Edmonton.  A recent University of Michigan and University of California study found that Leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have spiked in the last 10 years -- especially among men who live downwind of pollution plumes from the oil, gas and tar sands facilities east of Edmonton.

Alberta's Liberal leader, Raj Sherman, who is also a physician, is calling for an independent study by an outside health agency to settle the question of cancer risks in the oil sands once and for all.

Doctors given new direction

After criticisms that doctors were not responding adequately to patient's petroleum emissions complaints, the Alberta Energy Regulator also recommended that Alberta Health ensure that "appropriate avenues exist to link local physicians with specialists in environmental health."

"That's really good.  They're wanting us, if we go in, they don't want us to feel like we're not welcome and they do their best to treat us.  And that's huge," said Alain Labreque.

Alain's wife Karla also told the hearing about the obstacles she faced in navigating the medical system, trying to determine if her symptoms were linked to the oil sands.  She had burning red nasal passages, and often fell from dizziness.

She claimed one local doctor refused to give her a blood test to determine if there were chemicals in her system from the fossil fuel industry.  Likewise, another doctor -- her ear-throat-and-nose specialist in Grande Prairie -- dared her not to probe if her health woes were connected to the province's crown energy jewel.

“He just told me to move,” Labrecque said under oath at the hearing.

“He said… you are just a small, little bolt in this huge robot, and you don't matter. Move.”

The oil sands industry has pumped billions in investment into the region in recent years, and CAPP forecasts that Alberta's oil sands operations will more than double by 2030.

Blood test

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