Reduce Tar Sands Health Hazards

Tar sands oil operations in northern Alberta, Canada, poses significant health threats. Recent studies confirm that extracting and processing the heavy crude releases cancer-causing chemicals near the cities of Fort McMurray and Edmonton and remote First Nation communities. Transporting tar sands oil also worsens the impact of train derailments and creates a risk of explosions and pipeline spills in densely populated communities from Seattle to Chicago to Albany, New York.

A tar sands upgrader plant in Fort McMurray, Alberta

NRDC fights to protect communities from this tar sands invasion and accompanying health hazards. Our scientists analyze and shine a spotlight on the latest research that shows not only elevated levels of hazardous air and water pollution but also rare cancers appearing near tar sands mines and the plants used to process the oil.

Our experts also track the impacts of tar sands oil disasters. NRDC was the first organization to report that the massive oil spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan, involved tar sands oil—despite the company’s original statements to the contrary. After another tar sands oil spill in Arkansas, monitoring data showed significantly increased levels of benzene in the ambient air, and nearby residents reported increased headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems.

As a leader in the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline and other efforts to expand tar sands production, we work with First Nations and other allies to block additional pipelines proposed to British Columbia, through Eastern Canada, and elsewhere in the United States. And we call on government officials to set stronger safety standards for rail tank cars used to haul the toxic substance.

We also urge state, provincial, and federal agencies to conduct more comprehensive research on all the potential health impacts of tar sands oil—and make that information available to the public—and to consider these risks whenever they evaluate new tar sands projects.

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