Contaminant levels in some towns downwind of Alberta and Saskatchewan oil sand and gas processing zones are "higher than in Mexico City during the 1990s…and the Houston-Galveston area today," creating a heightened cancer risk, according to scientists at UC Irvine and the University of Michigan.
The study shows dangerously high levels of "the carcinogens 1,3-butadiene and benzene and other airborne pollutants," and demonstrated that the numbers of men with leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma are highest in communities closest to pollution plumes.
The work provides a "dramatic illustration" of a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report that claims outdoor air pollution is a leading cause of cancer.
"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," said Isobel Simpson, lead author of the study.
"Our main point is that it would be good to proactively lower these emissions of known carcinogens. You can study it and study it, but at some point you just have to say, 'Let's reduce it.' "
Access the scientific study here.