Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

Doctors “afraid to diagnose health conditions linked to the oil and gas industry”

tar sands - evacuationLater today hearings are scheduled to begin on emissions and vapours emanating for the tar sands, specifically around the Peace River area.

The hearings, which have been scheduled by the Albertan Energy Regulator, have come after years of complaints by local residents into the odours, which are so bad some families have been forced to move from their homes.

Local residents have been complaining of symptoms such as severe headaches, dizziness, sinus problems, vomiting, muscle spasms and fatigue, amongst others.

But we do not know how badly the tar sands are really impacting people’s health. This is because according to a report commissioned specifically for the hearings by a public health specialist, some local doctors are reluctant to treat patients who draw connections between the tar sands industry and their personal health problems.

The report, prepared by Dr Margaret Sears, concludes that: “There were reports from various sources that physicians would not diagnose a relationship between bitumen exposures and chronic symptoms.”

“Physicians are quite frankly afraid to diagnose health conditions linked to the oil and gas industry,” she adds.

And it gets worse. For those individuals who suggested there was a “connection” between their health problems and the tar sands, Sears records how “Physician care was refused … and that analytical services were refused by an Alberta laboratory when told that the proposed analysis was to investigate exposure to emissions related to bitumen extraction.”

Locals are arguing that the regulator must force the industry to capture the emissions: “The best result possible is that they make some regulations to get companies to capture their vapours,” believes Alain Labrecque, who has had to vacate his farm after suffering numerous symptoms including headaches, dizziness, fatigue and memory loss.

His family only started experiencing symptoms in 2011, after Baytex Energy purchased nearly 50 wells and in the area and started heating bitumen in above-ground tanks to extract the oil.

“There is definitely a regulatory gap,” Labrecque argues “We just want more accountability. We want the regulator to take on a greater role, and have regulations in place so they can enforce them, and just provide more accountability to industry.”

Baytex, for its part, predictably argues that “there are no human health impacts associated with the emissions from our projects.”

The Labrecques have also now filed an injunction against Baytex to force the company to stop operating. The hearing though won’t be heard until March.

Local residents will also have to wait until March for the report into the hearings to be published by the regulator.

Comments (6)

  1. karlpk says:

    Hard to understand this as the symptoms described are exactly what’s in the Imperial Oil spec sheet on side effects from inhaling the diluents used to turn the bitumen into a slurry – Here: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents_staticpost/cearref_21799/3139/responses_to_j_wier-att4.pdf
    You owe me one :)

  2. Barbara Chan says:

    It’s long past due that someone investigated this but it’s very much like locking the barn door after the horses are long gone. People there have suffered for years, can you imagine how you’d feel if your children were sick because of this and no one cared or listened. The doctors should have their licences to practice medicine revoked. What are they there for if not to take care of the health of the people?

  3. Christina Klein says:

    Just TERRIBLE!!!

  4. Cheri Lundstrom says:

    This is just out and out Bull Shit. No one should be denied medical help and no Dr should lack the balls to tell the truth. The idea of the labs denying tests is just wrong. I am appalled, I used to think Canada had something on the US.

  5. Dafydd says:

    You have a right to protect your life, health and bodily well-being with all necessary force. Killing or criminal damage is permitted in self defense. You also have a right to organise into a neighborhood community to defend yourselves against invading gangs of unscrupulous industrialists who poison you. Use minimum force and persuasion to start with an unspoken threat of heavier action to follow. Build it up slowly to give them a chance to back off. Follow through if necessary. Always target the highest authority in the gang.

  6. Dafydd says:

    You have a right to protect your life, health and bodily well-being with all necessary force. Killing or criminal damage is permitted in self defense. You also have a right to organise into a neighborhood community to defend yourselves against invading gangs of unscrupulous industrialists who poison you. Use minimum force and persuasion to start with an unspoken threat of heavier action to follow. Build it up slowly to give them a chance to back off. Follow through if necessary. Always target the highest authority in the gang. If you are going to die if the situation continues then you have nothing to lose. Stand up, take back your sovereignty.

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