Oil sands industry supports ongoing work to assess and monitor health conditions

Contributed to The New York Times
Greg Stringham
Vice President of Oil Sands
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
February 27, 2014
CAPP today provided the following statement about the important issue of health in response to statements made earlier this week in Washington, D.C.

Canada's oil sands producers are deeply concerned about suggestions oil sands development is affecting people's health, most specifically causing cancer among residents of Fort Chipewyan, an aboriginal community located about 220 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Safety is our industry's top priority and oil sands development must occur in a manner that keeps people safe, and benefits their overall quality of life.

Findings by the Alberta Cancer Board in its 2009 study that rates for some cancers are higher in Fort Chipewyan than in Alberta's general population are concerning and indicate the need for more scientific study by government health authorities on a full range of health concerns and potential causes.

Scientists with the Royal Society of Canada who looked specifically for evidence of a link between health issues in Fort Chipewyan and oil sands development report "there is currently no credible evidence of environmental contaminant exposures from oil sands reaching Fort Chipewyan at levels expected to cause elevated human cancer rates."

In addition to the 2009 Alberta Cancer Board study, Royal Society scientists reviewed several other pertinent information sources, including a 2007 report titled Health Trends in Alberta, a report by the trace metals and air contaminants working group of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, and the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association's human exposure monitoring program.

Industry has supported previous studies and is supportive on ongoing health monitoring and regional studies. Thousands of oil sands industry employees live and work in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Ensuring industrial emissions remain within thresholds for human health and do not adversely impact human health is imperative.

Suggestions oil sands development causes cancer, and that we as Canadians working in industry have not taken proper measures, or that we lack care or concern about our neighbours' health, are troubling to us as citizens, parents and employees.

We fully support and have advocated for more scientific health studies but it would be less independent for the oil sands industry to direct such medical health studies ourselves.

Government and community action to seek solid science is required.
As an industry we are making a significant investment (up to $50 million per year) in the Alberta and federal governments' Joint Oil Sands Monitoring program, created to enhance environmental monitoring in the region and provide data-based assurance of environmental health.

Enhancements include increased monitoring sites, more substances monitored, higher frequency of sampling, a greater level of monitoring sensitivity and broader geographic coverage.