Health of U.S. Refinery Communities At Risk from Tar Sands

NGO report warns of heart and lung problems from refineries using tar sands
Monday Sep 17, 2012

PRESS CONTACT: Matt Brown, ForestEthics Communications Director,, 415-858-8576

BELLINGHAM, WA – Communities living next to tar sands refineries suffer from more intense sulfur dioxide pollution because of the extremely high sulfur content of tar sands refinery feed stocks, according to a new report by ForestEthics, an environmental organization. Sulfur dioxide pollution is associated with a wide variety of human health problems, including asthma and heart disease.

“The growing use of Canada’s tar sands by U.S. refineries adds another health risk to those already being faced by some of the most disadvantaged communities in the United States,” said Aaron Sanger, U.S. Campaigns Director at ForestEthics and author of the report.

The U.S. currently imports 99 percent of what Canada exports in tar sands, a gooey blend of bitumen and noxious chemicals found in northern Alberta. In addition to growing health problems communities are facing from tar sands—both in the U.S. and Canada—forests, rivers and air quality in Alberta are suffering because of the extreme measures required to extract tar sands. The corrosive substance is sent to the U.S. in pipelines, among other methods, which have been known to burst and pollute the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long known that health impacts from refineries fall disproportionately on communities near refineries, which are more likely than other communities to include people from disadvantaged groups. African American and Latino communities living near refineries have a higher cancer risk from refinery pollutants than the general population, according to several EPA studies.

“Dumping more tar sands pollution on communities already suffering unfairly from our fossil fueled transportation system is monstrous,” Sanger said. “U.S. companies have used their buying power against refinery use of tar sands; the EPA should also use its legal power against this growing human health problem.”

To date, 16 companies and the City of Bellingham have publicly confirmed action unfavorable to U.S. refineries that use tar sands.

PDF iconDownload the full report - Tar Sands Refineries: U.S. Communities at Risk >>
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