Monday, January 20, 2014

Fear And Loathing In Peace River

While the Harper cabal proceeds full-tilt with its tarsands advertising campaign, the details of which Canadians are being denied, a game of inconvenient truth versus consequences is being played out in Peace River, Alberta.

According to a report in The Edmonton Journal, Peace River may be making people sick. The suspected culprits? - its gas well emissions and its storage tanks in which bitumen is heated as part of the process of separating sand from the oil. Residents' health complaints range from dizziness to insomnia to cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, a conspiracy of silence in the medical community is exacerbating their problems:

Some Peace River area doctors are afraid to speak out about health impacts of oil and gas activity and in some cases have declined to treat area residents who wondered if their health problems were related to emissions, says one of two independent health experts hired by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Dr. Margaret Sears is an Ontario expert in toxicology and health who will appear this week at a special hearing into complaints about emissions from the Baytex oilsands operation 32 kilometres south of Peace River. Her interviews with residents found physician care was refused when a resident suggested a connection between their symptoms and oil and gas emissions.

"Communications with public health officials and medical professionals revealed a universal recognition that petrochemical emissions affect health; however, this was countered by a marked reluctance to speak out,” wrote Sears.

As the article makes clear, physicians face tremendous pressure to conceal this possible relationship, pressure that seems to be leading some to violate their Hippocratic oath:

“Physicians are quite frankly afraid to diagnose health conditions linked to the oil and gas industry,” wrote Sears, adding she heard several times about the case of Dr. John O’Connor who was threatened with losing his licence after raising an alarm about cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan.

Although I am not a conspiracy buff, the pervasive kind of corruption this suggests is astounding, something we would ordinarily have a hard time accepting in Canada.

Perhaps equally astounding, but in a good way, is that this perversion is being seriously investigated by both the Alberta government and the Alberta Energy Regulator, which hired eight independent investigators to comprehensively explore the health problems and their possible relationship to the oil processes and emissions in Peace River. As well, the AER is going to hold a special ten-day public hearing into the entire affair.

Wonder if the Harper cabal will now take to labelling both the Alberta government and the AER as additional enemies of the people.

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