Oil Campaigns

Health Effects near Extraction Sites

Oil drilling, processing, pipeline spills, and the burning of fossil fuels cause damage to people as well as the environment, but accurate information is hard to find. Early in 2014, a Canadian doctor came before the US senate to talk about health issues he was seeing in communities near the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. It is a moral and justice issue to ignore the adverse health effects of people living near the extraction sites, both in Canada and in North Dakota.

Health effects near Refineries

Communities living near refineries are suffering increased rates of adverse health effects. Mercaptans, which are volatile sulfur compounds released into the air during oil refinement, are linked to central nervous system damage.

Piles of “petcoke” – the carbon dust left over from the refining process of tar sands oil, sold as a coal substitute, have appeared on the south side of Chicago, on land owned by KCBX.  BP has recently converted its nearby Whiting, Indiana refinery from primarily sweet crude to primarily Canadian tar sands. Dust samples of black soot on nearby homes have found vanadium and nickel. “The EPA accused KCBX of violating the federal Clean Air Act after pollution monitors posted around the two storage terminals recorded high levels of lung-damaging particulate matter on April 12 and May 8.” [1] Detroit has similar piles of petcoke since Marathon’s  refinery conversion to Canadian tar sands.

Health effects after a spill

Elevated levels of benzene— a powerful carcinogen linked to genetic damage, cancer, and reproductive effects,were found in air studies along a 60-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River immediately following the diluted bitumen spill[2].  Over 25 toxic chemicals were detected in the air the day after the Mayflower, Arkansas diluted bitumen spill of March 29, 2013.[3]

Dr. John O’Connor of the Fort Chipewyan community in Alberta, Canada told the US Senate that he was seeing an increase in cancers and auto-immune diseases near tar sands extraction sites and he wanted detailed health studies to determine the cause. O’Connor said Alberta doctors were afraid to speak out after a claim of professional misconduct was brought against him for raising “undue alarm” about negative health effects. He was later cleared of charges by the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Are the profits of oil transport companies worth the health of our people and our planet?

We think not. That’s why it’s so important that we TAKE ACTION TODAY[link to take action] to prevent an increase in oil pipeline capacity and new pipelines from being built.



[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-petcoke-feds-violation-met-20140604,0,1990331.story

[2] Ibid., p.4

[3] http://attorney-group.com/arkansas/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/BucketBrigade.pdf