Oils sands (tar sands) in Canada polluting nearby lakes with carcinogens

Despite what pro-oil sands (also called tar sands) supporters have said, the problem of higher than usual carcinogen levels is what many scientists already suspected following a Canadian study. In addition, the carcinogen levels are more widely disbursed than previously suspected.

To the surprise of no one, some oil sands supporters have even suggested that the environmental issues related to tar sands excavation are natural. It’s not unlike the GOP’s favorite Rush Limbaugh who said the oil from the BP spill was “as natural as the ocean water is” back in May 2010. Yeah, cyanide is natural too.

The pollution even reached a remote lake 50 miles away from the oil sands site, which was the limit of the testing.

More from the NY Times:

oil sand in alberta

Oil sands in Alberta, via Shutterstock

The development of Alberta’s oil sands has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study released on Monday. And they said the contamination covered a wider area than had previously been believed….

“Now we have the smoking gun,” Professor Smol said.

He said he was not surprised that the analysis found a rise in PAH deposits after the industrial development of the oil sands, “but we needed the data.” He said he had not entirely expected, however, to observe the effect at the most remote test site, a lake that is about 50 miles to the north.

It looks like the European governments who claimed that this project was an environmental risk just might have been proven right:

Canada has threatened a trade war with European Union over the bloc’s plan to label oil from Alberta’s vast tar sands as highly polluting, the Guardian can reveal, before a key vote in Brussels on 23 February. “Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests, including at the World Trade Organisation,” state letters sent to European commissioners by Canada’s ambassador to the EU and its oil minister, released under freedom of information laws. The move is a significant escalation of the row over the EU’s plans, which Canada fears would set a global precedent and derail its ability to exploit its tar sands, which are the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia. Environmental groups argue that exploitation of the tar sands, also called oil sands, is catastrophic for the global climate, as well as causing serious air and water pollution in Alberta.

This will also provide more fodder to those opposing the tar sands pipeline for allegedly being toxic.

And you can read our tar sands archive here.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • http://fighttherightwingnuts.blogspot.com/ mike31c

    Next on Faux News: Carcinogens are GOOD for you!

  • ComradeRutherford

    It’s a feature, not a bug.

    OF COURSE, tar sand oil causes pollution. Wasn’t that the point? Where’s the fun of ruining the future of the planet through catastrophic climate change, when you can’t intentionally destroy the immediate environment while doing it?

    The world has to be utterly destroyed, as soon as possible. The Free Market has already decided that, the only detail is how soon can the world be destroyed? Oil companies are doing their part to kill off all life on the planet. How are you helping kill your children’s future? Shopping at WalMart?

  • jasper

    The Harper government does not believe in science. It is too ‘ungodly’.

  • Naja pallida

    Since oil was formed from large colonies of bacteria, maybe that’s why politicians feel such a close kinship with the oil industry.

  • hmontaigne

    Just think, all those seams and cracks of coal and oil and gas once were living creatures. Our ancestors.

  • Sally

    Proving what we already knew…how will the Kochs and ALEC spin this? We MUST get off fossil fuels and the sooner the better.

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