Study Confirms Tar Sands Poisoning Air in First Nations Community
Confirming what a First Nations community surrounded by tar sands development has claimed for decades, new research says the reserve in northern Alberta is suffering from air pollution that is sometimes “at levels above what is recommended for human health.”
That’s according to Alberta’s chief health minister, Karen Grimsrud, as reported by the Canadian Press.
The provincial health ministry, industry regulator (which is industry-funded), and the Fort McKay First Nation all cooperated on a study released Thursday that finally confirmed what those in Fort McKay had long asserted: air pollution from nearby tar sands mining and refining has been sickening members of their community.
The toxins discovered in the air include “hydrogen sulphide and carcinogens like benzene,” writes the Canadian Press. “Ozone and sulphur dioxide were ‘frequently’ above long-term health thresholds.”
Allegations of heavily polluted air have gone on since oil industry development began in the area in the 1960s, Fort McKay First Nation chief Jim Boucher told the Canadian Press.
“We are very concerned,” Boucher added. “It’s been a cause for concern for the people of this community since 1966.”
Leo Gabriel Desjarlais, a hunter and trapper in the small reserve of only 600 people, “struggles to describe what it smells like when fumes from the oil sand operations blow into the community,” CBC writes.
“Sometimes it smells like horse shit,” Desjarlais told the broadcaster. “Sometimes it smells like burnt plastic.”
“Whenever the air smells like that he shuts the windows and stays inside,” CBC reports.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT