Oil sands air emissions linked to serious health problems

Oil sands air emissions linked to serious health problems

Just when the Canadian oil sands have passed with flying colours a test that showed no links between the industry and an increased cancer rate in adjacent aboriginal communities, a new study warns odours from these operations do cause health problems.

The independent report, published by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Monday, is the first of its kind conducted in the area that has found a conclusive link between the industry's activities and human health.

The document outlines how companies near Peace River should handle their emissions, so that they eliminate gas venting, reduce flaring and conserve all produced gas where feasible.

“The Panel’s main finding in this section is that odours from heavy oil operations in the Peace River area have the potential to cause some of the symptoms experienced by residents; therefore, these odours should be eliminated,” the report says.

The AER panel, which held public hearings in January, heard evidence from local residents, scientists, engineers and oil companies on the issue of odours and emissions from heavy oil operations in the region.

They learned that while some families have left because of the odour, others have complained for years about health problems such as severe headaches, dizziness, sinus congestion, muscle spasms, popping ears, memory loss, numbness, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, eye twitching and fatigue.

The report also recommends setting up an air-quality monitoring program and calls for stepped up enforcement of environmental standards.