Doctors demand access to all health data on oilsands and other natural resource extraction projects, including shale gas

Doctors demand access to all health data on oilsands and other natural resource extraction projects, including shale gas by Sharon Kirkey and James Wood, August 15, 2012, Postmedia News and Calgary Herald
YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. — Canada’s doctors called Wednesday for a full diagnosis of the health and environmental effects of natural resource development — particularly in Alberta’s oilsands — as a national debate continues to rage over energy issues. Delegates to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual general council meeting overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution asking for public and timely access to all government and industry data on the potential human health effects of “natural resource extraction projects.” Physicians also backed a call for better monitoring of the environmental and health impacts of such initiatives. Whether there is any effect from the oilsands is unclear, but the issue has become “a hugely emotional and highly politicized” one, Yellowknife physician Dr. Ewan Affleck said Wednesday. “When our patients come to us and say, ‘Everyone in our community is getting cancer and we’re scared,’ we’re not sure what to answer,” Affleck said. … Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Linda Slocombe, another member of the province’s delegation to the CMA meeting, said the potential impact of asbestos mining, shale gas explorations and other projects must also be examined.

The doctors want to ensure appropriate monitoring of health hazards takes place, and “that information is relayed to the health professionals, so we are able to help our patients,” Slocombe said. The doctors’ debate follows a motion passed Tuesday by the United Church of Canada opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which would ship bitumen from the oilsands to British Columbia’s coast for transport to Asia. Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said he saw little comparison between the positions of the CMA and the United Church. Davies said the industry group has no problem with the CMA resolutions. “The more transparency you have, the better credibility you have, that’s our modus operandi. When we publish our stats, they are completely public and we’d hope that any science-based health study would be public as well,” he said. Alberta Health spokesman Howard May said the government is willing to work with the CMA. The northern communities of Fort MacKay and Fort Chipewyan, downstream of the oilsands, are currently doing assessments to determine future health-care studies of residents, he said. “It’s our commitment to the communities to work with them to determine what is the next step,” said May, who noted it will be up to the communities themselves as to whether the studies are made public. Affleck said research must go beyond studying people alone. It means looking at the impact on food, water and air quality, as well as on people’s livelihoods, he said. “Are they no longer able to hunt and sell their meat? Have their fisheries gone bad?” “We know if we don’t measure something, we can’t assess the outcome of it,” added CMA president Dr. Anna Reid. “We want to look at anything that might impact” the health of patients, she said. “I think that’s something that’s shared by physicians across the country.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:  Warning over social downsides of fracking

Public Health and Shale Gas Mining, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eilish Cleary Presents on November 14, 2012 at 7 PM at Community Peace Centre ]

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