Tar Sands, Environmental Justice & Health

Human health depends on a healthy environment.  When the environment becomes contaminated, we feel the impacts in the form of increases in the rate of disease and infection. Economically and socially marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by these impacts because too often they are the communities closest to the sources of health risks, such as toxic waste sites of tar sands developments. Oil sands development is having severe negative effects on the health of communities in Alberta, in particular the traditional stewards of the lands, the first nations of northern Alberta.

The Facts:

  • Fort McMurray is currently deficient in 70 out of 72 quality-of-life indicators developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, including a shortage of affordable housing (or simply access to any housing) and wait lists to see doctors
  • Communities downstream from the tar sands are experiencing cancer rates far higher than can be explained by change. Leukemia, lymphoma, lupus and rare forms of cancer have all increasing in recent years in the population that is for the most part made up of Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations.
  • The concerns of those communities, their traditional knowledge and the perspectives of their supporters, are silenced.
  • Fish in Lake Athabasca fish in the last five or six years with great have been found with lumps on them, humpbacks, and crooked tails
  • Government science is not subject to peer review, a process whereby in any other field would be deemed suspicious and unprofessional
  • Heavy metal pollution is a growing concern for communities located near oil sands operations and downstream from development- causing health problems for people and wildlife.
  • Costs to human health and ecosystems are not factored into the costs of oil sands projects.
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