Quantcast

Alberta Doctors Reluctant to Treat Patients Who Draw Connection Between Tar Sands and Health

Energy

By Andy Rowell

Later today hearings are scheduled to begin on emissions and vapors emanating from the tar sands, specifically around the Peace River area in northwestern Alberta, Canada.

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

Court hearings begin today in Alberta over regulation of industry accountability of emissions from tar sands plants. Photo credit: Wikicommons

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.

Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS  page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed new restrictions on oil exploration in his state yesterday by putting a moratorium on hundreds hydraulic fracturing permits until the projects are reviewed by independent scientists, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
The endangered Houston toad. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While the planet continues to heat up, almost every single one of the 459 species listed as endangered in the U.S. will struggle as the climate crisis intensifies, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
"This singular scientific achievement was accomplished at Heliogen's commercial facility in Lancaster, California." Heliogen

A startup backed by Bill Gates unveiled a breakthrough solar technology Tuesday that could free heavy industry from fossil fuels.

Read More Show Less
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that can help with chronic fatigue and stress-related burnout. Tero Laakso / Flickr

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

While everyone has specific life stressors, factors related to job pressure, money, health, and relationships tend to be the most common.

Stress can be acute or chronic and lead to fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, nervousness, and irritability or anger.

Read More Show Less
A video shows a woman rescuing a koala from Australia's wildfires. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

More than 350 koalas may have died in the wildfires raging near the Australian town of Port Macquarie in New South Wales, but one got a chance at survival after a woman risked her life to carry him to safety.

Read More Show Less