Study indicates link between oilsands pollution and higher cancer rates in area residents and animals.
By Dean Bennett
The Canadian Press: July 7, 2014
A new study by two Alberta First Nations and University of Manitoba scientists says there is a link between oilsands pollutants and higher levels of heavy metals in wildlife, and higher cancer rates in residents.
“There’s something unique that is happening in Fort Chipewyan,” Stéphane McLachlan, the lead researcher from the university, told a news conference Monday. “It’s a situation that is alarming and demands attention.”
The report — titled Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands — is the result of three years of research. It was funded by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
The study says it found 23 cases of cancer in 94 participants.
“Cancer occurrence increased significantly with participant employment in the oilsands and with the increased consumption of traditional foods and locally caught fish,” said the report.
It also found total levels of carcinogens in the traditionally hunted foods were higher compared with similar studies around the world.
But it found the dietary intake was low because community members were turning away from the traditional foods in favour of store-bought sustenance.
The methodology combined scientific methods with anecdotal information from community members.
The study also reported generally higher concentrations of industrial heavy metals in moose, duck, muskrat and beaver. It reported the arsenic and mercury levels in muskrat, duck and moose to be of concern to young children. There were also elevated cadmium levels in moose, beaver, and duck.
It said selenium levels in all wildlife were high enough to be a concern to adults and children alike.
Steve Courtoreille, chief of the Mikisew Cree Nation, said everyone interviewed is concerned about the general decline in health.
“It’s time the government does something,” said Courtoreille. “The reality is our people are dying.”
(read the full article at The Star)
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