5 Ways the Keystone Pipeline Might Make People Sick

The Keystone Pipeline has generated outrage for the environmental impacts it could have. The pipeline would ferry tar sands oil from Canada all the way through America’s Great Plains and down to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be shipped off to China. It is not oil that would benefit U.S. consumers.

By some estimates, operating the pipeline would be the equivalent of adding 300,000 more cars to America’s highways each year, with all the air pollution and effect on climate change that suggests.

However, Keystone could also have significant health impacts. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) identified five that are worth considering as people continue to weigh the pros and cons before construction of the pipeline gets the green light. Here are the most serious ailments already associated with Keystone and pipelines generally.

1) Increased incidence of bile duct cancer. Cancer of the bile duct is very rare. However, it has started to crop up in people living downstream from a major tar sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada. The rate for this cancer is 30 percent higher than average, reports Senator Boxer, based on testimony from a doctor who is treating these patients. Dr. Boxer notes that elevated levels of carcinogens and mercury have been documented in Fort Chipewyan, the downstream community where cancer incidences are increasing.

2) Increased likelihood of leukemia. After tar sands are extracted, they enter a refinery process. Dr. Stuart Batterman, a professor from the University of Michigan, testified before the US. Senate that he has found “significantly higher levels of dangerous air pollutants and carcinogens downwind from a tar sands refinery near Edmonton, Alberta.” According to Dr. Batterman, people living near tar sands refineries are suffering high rates of cancers linked to these toxic chemicals, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

3) Increased asthma and skin problems. If the pipeline is built, the tar sands will end up in communities like Port Arthur, Texas, in the Gulf Coast. Port Arthur is already on the EPA’s list of cities suffering from dangerous ozone levels. It is common to develop asthma and other respiratory ailments, skin irritations, and cancer as a result.

4) Increased dizziness and nausea. If you’ve ever driven by an industrial facility or oil refinery, you might remember just how awful it smells. People who live near oil spills suffer even worse consequences. For example, in 2010, a pipeline ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Residents living near the oil spill zone reported getting dizzy, suffering from nausea, and experiencing burning eyes and nose.

5) Increased bronchitis and more lung problems. Tar sands oil causes one set of health problems. The waste from refining the oil causes another. Tar sands refinery waste is called petroleum coke, or “pet coke.” It is a black dust rife with heavy metals. The waste is piled up in open areas and when the wind blows, it goes airborne, sending clouds of toxic black dust swirling not way up into the upper atmosphere, but down into communities where people live. Kids are particularly susceptible. Parents report having to keep their kids indoors with windows and doors tightly closed so they won’t inhale toxic pet coke particles, which can cause or aggravate bronchitis, among other ailments.

The Keystone Pipeline will only add to these problems. But its construction is not a done deal. Though both the Republican-controlled House and Senate have passed legislation supporting the pipeline, President Obama has vowed to veto it. Care2 member Nathan Empsall is circulating a petition to urge the President to do just that. You can get more information and sign the petition here.


Corey Brideau
Corey Brideau4 years ago

that pipeline would be the most detrimental thing ever!!!

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Would the leaders listen to and consider about it?

Angela P.
Angie P4 years ago

Not good.

Darren Woolsey
Darren W4 years ago

More than enough reasons for Obama to veto.

Terry Wheeler
Terry Wheeler4 years ago

I am so glad our President vetoed this abomination ,

Gerald L.
Gerald L4 years ago

contd; @ Klaatu B. 6:29am PST on Feb 23, 2015
I think the only thing that will satisfy these Eco-Nazis is for the entire world to revert back to the living conditions of "Dark Ages" of a thousand years ago.

Actually Klaatu the Eco-Speaks know that “Our Silence Will Not Protect US” quote; Sandra Steingraber Ph.D. www.livingdownstream.com/‎
Living Downstream is a cinematic feature-length documentary based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor (viewable on YouTube)

We don’t know what your connection or interest is to the Keystone, are you a pipeliner, Refinery worker, Stock-broker?

Anyway # 1) in Fort Chipewyan, the downstream community where cancer incidences are increasing. The good Dr. may have had his Alberta license to practice medicine revoked for going public. When I watched the film Living Downstream last Wednesday, the author first mentioned cancer clusters. The city we live in has several cancer clusters from Paper Mill emissions falling into certain residential areas, the first Dr. hired by the new Cancer Clinic was fired for disclosing this information to the media.

Wilful blindne$$. Ignorance i$ bli$$ for the shareholder$.

Risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma associated with occupational ...
Cancer Causes Control. 2005 Jun;16(5):599-607. Risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma associated with occupational exposure to solvents, metals, organic dusts and ...

Sarah Hanaghan
Sarah Hanaghan4 years ago

glad it's not over here in the UK

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Teresa W.
Teresa W4 years ago

Klaatu, I see you'd rather have cancer.

Teresa W.
Teresa W4 years ago

Stop Keystone XL!