Decades of oilsands air and water pollution ‘clearly evident,’ say scientists

Leading federal and academic scientists have uncovered “compelling” evidence that Alberta’s oilsands operations have been sending toxins into the atmosphere for decades.

The team has found “striking” increases in contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the bottom of six lakes up to 90 kilometres from the massive oilsands operations in northeastern Alberta.

“Industry’s role as a decades-long contributor of PAHs to oilsands lake ecosystems is now clearly evident,” the team reports in a study published Monday in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

PAHs, which have been linked to cancer, “increased significantly” in the lake sediments after oilsands development began, says the study by a team from Environment Canada and Queen’s University. PAHs are a group of over 100 different chemicals formed during the incomplete burning of coal,

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oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances and are one of the top 10 hazardous substances on the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Co-author Derek Muir, who heads a priority contaminants team at Environment Canada, gave a preview of the findings at a conference in November. Monday’s study lays out the details. Read more …