New Study Links Tar Sands to Carcinogens


A new study led by University of Alberta ecologist Dr. David Schindler and published in the renowned Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes some alarming conclusions about the water near the tar sands. After monitoring 60 sites along the Athabasca River and its tributaries, Dr. Schindler concluded the tar sands have added carcinogenic toxins to the area environment.

The toxins are higher in concentration close to, and downstream from, the epicentre of tar sands refining near Fort McMurray. The study focuses on 13 toxic substances explicitly linked to tar sands development, which are toxic even at low concentrations. Included in the list are heavy metals such as mercury and lead. 

Dr. Schindler’s conclusions contradict industry and government claims that the toxins are naturally occurring. They also slam industry-led monitoring groups and make the case for more thorough oversight from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Dr. Schindler’s evidence supports long-standing claims from environmental and citizens’ groups that the tar sands pose an immediate threat to the health and well-being of Albertans. Toxic water is one of a long list of social and environmental ills stemming from the rapidly-expanding industry, and part of the reason Sierra Club Canada is calling for a moratorium on tar sands development.

For Dr. Schindler’s full article, click here to download a PDF of the report: