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Much like other claims made by opponents of oil sands development, shocking stories about higher cancer rates among aboriginals living near such projects are falling apart with close scrutiny.
After reviewing the incidence of cancer in the Fort Chipewyan, Alta., aboriginal community between 1992 and 2011, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. James Talbot, said Monday the overall cancer rate in the community is not significantly higher than elsewhere — 81 cases, compared with 79 that would be expected in the rest of Alberta.
While three types of cancer — cervical cancer (four cases), lung cancer (eight cases) and bile duct cancer (three cases) — are slightly more prevalent, the first two are preventable through vaccination and less smoking, he said. The third is more complicated and has been linked to such risk factors as obesity, diabetes, alcohol, viral hepatitis and family history.
“There isn’t strong evidence for an association between any of these cancers and environmental exposure,” Dr. Talbot told reporters after releasing the report in Edmonton. “The perception is that there is more cancer, and to some extent the perception is correct, but it’s not unique to this community,” he said.
So much for the environmental movement’s latest trash talk about the oil sands as a human health hazard, which expanded on a campaign against the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline that has accused it of threatening the climate, promoting oil exports to China and being reviewed by biased regulators.
The pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf, proposed by TransCanada Corp., is now in the final stage of a U.S. State Department review and President Barack Obama has suggested a decision will come this spring.
Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the U.S. Senate’s environment committee, fronted the health-scare angle when she said at a news conference in Washington on Feb. 26: “I have shown you, or at least I have told you, how health miseries follow the tar sands,” she said, arguing that more cancer is not in the U.S. national interest. “Health miseries follow tar sands from extraction, to transport, to refining, to waste disposal.”
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