Prince Charles: We must treat our planet like a sick patient

The Prince of Wales today called for us all to treat our planet like a sick patient.

In a keynote speech, he also urged health practitioners to be bolder about highlighting the links between the effects of climate change on clean air, water and our wellbeing.

Prince Charles –who for decades has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future–—told the Royal Society in London, ““Protect the health of the planet, protect our health. Actions which are good for the planet are also good for human health.

““Taking a more active approach to transport by walking and cycling and adopting healthy diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and more –saving lives and money.

‘“Reductions in air pollution also result, with separate and additional benefits to human health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.””

The future King’’s strong intervention, at a joint event involving his International Sustainability Unit and the World Health Organisation, came after he and the Duchess of Cornwall made a historic visit to the London Evening Standard newsroom today.

The royal couple were met by owner Evgeny Lebedev and editor Sarah Sands, who escorted them on a tour of our Kensington headquarters –the first time a future King and Queen Consort have made an official visit to the Standard since it was founded in 1827.

Mr Lebedev said, ““We are all very privileged that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited our newsroom today.

““It is a reminder of how engaged he is with the country he serves and of how the London Evening Standard is central to the lives of everyone in the capital, including our future monarch.””

Editor Sarah Sands said, ““It is an honour to welcome their Royal Highnesses to the Evening Standard.

““The fact that they have taken time to visit us demonstrates their keen interest in what is happening in London today.,”

Clarence House said, “”During the usual course of their engagements, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall wanted to visit their local newspaper as it went to press.””

During the visit Charles praised our Homeless Veterans fundraising campaign. He recalled there was a rise in the numbers of veterans needing help after the Falklands war and voiced concern that the same may happen after the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts as more service personnel require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Today’’s Royal Society event brought together health ministers, senior civil servants, health professionals and civil society organisations to discuss climate change, health and forthcoming negotiations involving the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21.

The Prince said in his speech, ““Those negotiations taking place in December provide perhaps our last opportunity to set targets that will keep the world to below two degrees of warming.””

He highlighted his delight that a meeting hosted by his International Sustainability Unit in December 2013, to help forge a consensus on the critical importance of the health sector talking with a coherent voice on this issue, has encouraged others to speak up.

““Five years ago The Lancet’s commission on climate change described it as ‘the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century’,”” he said. “”This warning has been echoed worldwide.””

The visit to our Kensington headquarters this morning will be listed as an official engagement.

It will be reported in the Court Circular, the authoritative, historical record of official engagements of members of the Royal Family. Climate change is also expected to be one of the main themes of Prince Charles’’s visit to the US next month, when he and the Duchess will meet President Obama at the White House.

While in America, the heir to the throne will also be honoured by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation with an award for exceptional leadership in conservation.

Child Safety, Zoning By-laws and the Oil Industry


Burnaby: December 31, 2012

Residents of Burnaby call on Mayor Derek Corrigan to scrap city by-laws that allow schools, daycares and residential developments to be built near refineries, oil tanks, substations and pipelines. The risk of leaks and spills of combustible oil and carcinogenic gases is unacceptable and should have never been allowed.

Elsie Dean of BROKE says, “We should not have to wait for a major catastrophe before we act. Schools and daycares should never have been built near oil facilities in the first place and we need to ensure that they never will again. Like gun control, we should be thinking about laws to protect children before a crisis occurs. Schools and housing developments must be protected from carcinogenic and combustible gases.”

The potential health risks to children in schools near or adjacent to oil pipelines is underlined by the tragedy in Fallon, Nevada. A lawsuit launched by a Nevada mother against Kinder Morgan alleges that the company failed to adequately monitor and repair a pipeline that was leaking jet fuel beneath a school playground and that the leak contributed to a cluster of childhood cancer cases at the school and the death of one child.

There are warnings about noxious gases strategically placed throughout the areas where tank farms, oil pipelines and substations have been allowed. Yet schools like Burnaby North Senior, and Forest Grove and Seaforth Elementary sit close to, or below, major oil facilities. Others like Stoney Creek and Lyndhurst Elementary and a YMCA childcare center sits just meters from both highly combustible jet fuel and heavy oil pipelines that carry a soup of toxic chemicals.

There have been major spills and leaks near these and other schools, daycares and residences throughout the years 2007 , 2008 , 2009 and 2010 . All have required an emergency response and evacuations, costing tax payers thousands of dollars. In January 2012, residences and a private school also had to be closed in Sumas.

Tax payers have always borne the costs associated with emergency response, including evacuations and medical care resulting from oil pipeline failure, oil spills and noxious gases from tank farms and substations.

Commenting on the cost to tax payers, Elsie Dean makes the point that “The companies that are found responsible for spills and oil pipeline ruptures should pay not only for clean up, but for all emergency response and medical care as well. The cost to tax payers of emergencies has not been factored into the expense of oil pipelines, tank farms, and sub-stations. Nor have the costs of routine air monitoring near the oil refinery on Burrard Inlet. When Kinder Morgan promises a few million in tax payments, it should be balanced against the hidden costs to tax payers of maintaining a huge oil infrastructure in Burnaby.”

In response to the concern about children’s health in schools and daycares near oil infrastructure, BROKE calls on all levels of government as well as the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to recommend that oil industries should not be zoned near schools, daycares and residences and that all measures must be employed to separate dangerous industries from homes and schools. Children’s safety should be the first priority for every level of government.

– 30 –

For more information please email

1. The Burnaby Teacher’s Association has already passed a resolution on December 4, 2012 to demand the Burnaby school district monitor oil pipelines for leaks and develop comprehensive evacuations plans for schools near tank farms, refineries and substations.
2. Kinder Morgan plead guilty to negligence in the 2007 pipeline rupture and found negligent by the National Energy Board in the 2012 incident.

Westridge residents complain of intense fumes

Westridge residents are sounding the alarm after noticing intense fumes coming from Kinder Morgan’s nearby marine terminal on Burrard Inlet in the last couple months.

Laura Dean has lived in the North Burnaby neighbourhood for 25 years and was disturbed back in August to come across a strong nausea-inducing smell while out for a run along the Drummond bike path.

It was so strong she had to close up all her windows and doors at home. Living next to a facility that loads crude oil and petroleum products onto tanker ships, Dean is used to certain odours once in a while.

But this wasn’t the usual. “After 25 years you have some idea of what’s normal,” she said. “It’s invisible. What are we breathing when it’s not detected until it gets to that level?”

The problem is only evident when there are tankers at the terminal, lately about once a week, she noted.

That also happens to be when her dog, Lacy, a seven-year-old, border collie-labrador cross has been experiencing diarrhea, lethargy and a reluctance to go outside, issues that only started when Dean first noticed the fumes.

Dean said she and other neighbours have become less apt to complain to the pipeline company because past efforts have resulted in no response or action.

“With the expansion and all of that, now we’re thinking this is getting ridiculous. If this is what it is with only 30 tankers [annually], we don’t even want to think of what it’s going to be when it’s 300 to 400 tankers.”

Neighbour Hartwig Boecking, 70, noticed the same fumes on Aug. 1 and complained, first to Kinder Morgan and then, when he got no response, to Metro Vancouver which regulates air quality in the region.

Only then, he said, did he learn the problem was a result of an equipment problem.

For 26 years, Boecking has lived in his Westridge home facing the inlet which is one of four that could be directly affected by a proposed routing option for the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

He’s particularly concerned about the recent odour problem after learning that the oil sands crude being exported overseas from the pipeline to the tanker ships is diluted to allow it to flow freely. The chemicals used to dilute it include arsenic and benzene.

“This is really serious stuff, especially for children,” he said. “We have my granddaughter living with us, there are many children in the neighbourhood.”

Boecking understands that accidents can happen, and odour control equipment can malfunction.

Still, “on such an important matter, don’t you have warning system?”

Last week’s protest by Greenpeace Canada at the terminal only added to his worries.

“If Greenpeace can enter the compound in five minutes, what kind of safety [system is there]?”

Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart has experienced the fumes first hand.

While walking through the area’s trails with his wife over the summer, “we noticed one day we could hardly keep our eyes open, the fumes were so strong,” Stewart said.

“I can’t imagine a massive expansion is going to make it any better.”

He plans to apply for intervenor status at the National Energy Board hearings once Kinder Morgan makes its official expansion application and will be lobbying in an attempt to ensure Burnaby residents are allowed to have input into the project.

Lexa Hobenshield, manager of external relations for Kinder Morgan Canada, said the company has received four odour complaints since Aug. 1.

“Of the four concerns raised, three were determined to be attributable to our operations. In one instance, a device on our odour control equipment was not functioning as it should and was replaced the next day,” Hobenshield said by email. “The other two complaints occurred during normal operations. In one instance we were loading a vessel, and in the other case, routine tank activity was underway at the time.”

She said all complaints are taken very seriously. In the recent cases, “All instances were thoroughly investigated and although we regret any inconvenience to our neighbours, no concern for public health and safety were found as a result of KMC’s investigations, supported by Metro Vancouver air quality data,” she said.

Its investigations of odour complaints “involves system checks at our central control centre and an in person investigation at the facility or location of the complaint.

“We consistently review all aspects of our operations and encourage the public to report odour complaints to us. Odour complaints can be reported to 1-888-876-6711.”

Groups seek probe into low-grade crude shipments to L.A. refineries

A coalition of environmental groups says it has discovered that large-scale shipments of low-quality heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands are being delivered by rail for processing by Southern California refineries.

The groups on Tuesday called for an investigation by air-quality officials to evaluate the effects on health, air quality, safety and the climate of processing the heavy Canadian crude, which requires intensive processing to remove higher levels of sulfur to meet U.S. standards.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment say they worry that refineries now processing the semi-solid form of oil have increased their noxious emissions and raised risks of accidental spills and accidents. The process of refining tar sands oil is more corrosive on refinery equipment and produces more greenhouse gases than liquid crude, environmentalists said.

“Tar sands crude is a whole new level of bad,” said Julia May, senior scientist at the Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and reducing pollution in California’s low-income communities. “Bringing it into the Los Angeles area by rail has taken everyone by surprise.”

Of particular concern is the low-income community of Wilmington, a Los Angeles harbor town surrounded by five oil refineries and long decried by social justice groups as a “sacrifice zone” of commerce and toxic pollution. Three of the Wilmington refineries — Valero Energy Corp., Phillips 66 Co. and Tesoro Corp — recently announced plans to use rail cars to bring in more of the heavy Canadian crude.

Joe Gorder, president and chief executive of Valero Energy Corp., told shareholders recently that his company plans to import an additional 30,000 barrels a day of the Canadian crude to its Wilmington refinery. Deliveries of the heavy crude totaled about 29,000 barrels a day last year for the entire Los Angeles area, NRDC scientists said.

Valero also wants to build a rail terminal to supply its refinery in the Bay Area community of Benicia with 70,000 barrels a day of petroleum products, including dirtier crudes such as tar sands.

Oil company officials say they are operating within state and federal regulations. As cleaner, liquid crude oil from California declines, they say they must rely on a variety of sources, including heavy Canadian crude, to remain profitable and ensure the future of their operations.

In an interview, Valero spokesman Bill Day said, “Valero follows the law. If we add more Canadian crude it will mean no net increase in emissions.”

The request for an investigation, submitted to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, argues that “the highly corrosive nature of tar sands will increase the likelihood for spills and accidents, posing direct safety risks and increased toxic emissions for both plant workers and the surrounding community.”

May said the sulfur found in heavy crude speeds corrosion in equipment and could lead to explosions like the one last summer at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond. A Cal/OSHA investigation into the Aug. 6 explosion at the Bay Area refinery found that the company did not follow safety recommendations made by its inspectors to replace a pipe corroded by sulfur. The pipe ruptured and fueled the fire.

Environmentalists also worry that increases in carbon pollution will make it harder to meet requirements of the state’s global warming law, AB 32, which created a market that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Owners of power plants and factories buy and sell permits to release the gases into the atmosphere.

Mohsen Nazemi, deputy executive officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s office of engineering and compliance, said refineries are not obligated to report the sources of their oil products. “But we have, I believe, the most stringent rules and regulations in the nation when it comes to refineries.” He said the refineries will not get any exemptions from regulations, regardless of the kind of crude they process.

Opponents see the local battle as part of a larger campaign against heavy Canadian crude that has stalled the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico. As the Obama administration weighs approval of Keystone XL, a shortage of pipeline capacity has increased the use of oil trains bound for refineries here and across the U.S.

Last Wednesday, a train derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude. On Friday, a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline spewed more than 12,000 barrels of the oil into the streets of Mayflower, Ark.

The issue has galvanized environmental activists in Wilmington, about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in the heart of an industrial empire of cranes, cargo ships, chemical depots, rail yards, refineries and diesel-powered big rigs.

Alicia Rivera, a Wilmington resident and activist with Communities for a Better Environment, said, “For the oil companies, tar sands mean more profits, but for us it’s a health issue.

“We’re demanding that regulators measure the toxicity of tar sands oil and how it’s affecting our community,” she said. “And to make sure that happens, we’re going to go door to door and hand out fliers that say, ‘There’s more pollution coming into Wilmington. Beware.'”

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Coal Exports

BC Lung Association and other health leaders to PMV: delay coal export decisions until health risks thoroughly evaluated — work with Local Governments, Health Authorities to assess health impacts of six additional coal train trips per day through local communities

For Immediate Release

December 17 2012

Vancouver — An open letter (attached) from the BC Lung Association, the Public Health Association of BC, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and individual health leaders was delivered today to Port Metro Vancouver, calling on it to delay decisions on two coal export expansion proposals until the cumulative health impacts of increased coal train traffic through Metro Vancouver communities can be properly evaluated.

The letter calls on the Port Authority to work with local governments, First Nations and regional health authorities to develop a transparent process for evaluating health impacts from increases in regional coal train traffic generated by these proposals.

Signatories note that they share concerns expressed in an earlier open letter to the Port Authority from climate scientists and others. “Why would we, in a province so rightfully proud of our clean energy, enable the delivery of these products that are globally toxic when used as intended?” said Dr Erica Frank, Canada Research Chair in Preventive Medicine and Population Health, UBC. “Not only are these coal exports a threat to the climate, we are concerned that they may be a threat to local health as well,” Frank said.

Plans currently before the Port Authority, if approved and built to capacity, would result in a minimum of 3 more return trips (6 one way trips) by coal trains through Metro Vancouver each day. This would be in addition to the 6 or more return coal train trips (12 one way) which currently pass through regional communities each day.

In the letter, health leaders point out that there are known health risks from exposure to diesel exhaust and coal dust and that approval of coal export plans would increase public exposure to both substances. No public agency is currently in a position to monitor or regulate cumulative increases in diesel exhaust from trains, and there are no regulations in Canada to control the release of coal dust from rail cars.

BNSF railway has stated that a coal train can lose over 100,000 kg of coal, much of it as dust, on its journey from mine to terminal. There should be a full accounting of the impact of these losses on public health prior to the approval of any coal export proposals.

There are more than 10 elementary and secondary schools, as well as a number of day care centres and seniors’ homes within 1 kilometre of the BNSF railway line which would serve the proposed Fraser Surrey Dock coal export terminal. On the north side of the Fraser River alone, there are more than 10 schools, a number of day care centres and a hospital within 1 kilometre of the CN line which would serve the proposed Neptune Terminals coal export expansion.

It is likely there will be continued pressure to increase coal exports out of Vancouver in the future:

Westshore Terminals has indicated that it could easily export an additional 20 million tonnes/year US coal, if it had the capacity;
Fraser Surrey Docks has indicated that it is seeking out other coal export customers in addition to BNSF;
if the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham Washington (projected to generate 18 return coal train trips per day) is not approved, there may be increased demand to export US coal through BC.

The potential for cumulative health impacts on local communities from increased exposure to diesel exhaust and coal dust should be thoroughly evaluated before the Port Authority approves any proposals for coal export expansion.

“If the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority truly aspires to be a good neighbour to Metro Vancouver communities, it should start by acknowledging that these coal export proposals have the potential to generate cumulative health impacts in areas outside their jurisdiction,” said Kevin Washbrook, Director with Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. “The Port Authority should put these decisions on hold, and work with regional communities and Health Authorities to assess the impacts and determine if these development proposals are in everyone’s best interests.”


1. For more information on the open letter: Kevin Washbrook, Director, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change 778-848-8278

2. For a summary of health concerns associated with exposure to diesel exhaust and coal dust, see the statement issued by the Whatcom Docs, a group of more than 200 Physicians in Whatcom County, Washington concerned about the proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal near Bellingham Washington:

Note that the statement is a summary of all health concerns — including those from occupational exposure to coal dust by miners.
Appendix B examines the issues related to coal dust exposure along railway lines in more detail:

3. The BNSF statement about coal dust releases from coal trains has been removed from their web site. However, the web page has been archived by the Sightline Institute in Seattle and can be read here: BNSF currently will not make information on coal dust escapes from trains public. Eric de Place, Senior Researcher with the Sightline Institute, can provide more information on this issue. Contact: 206-447-1880 x105.

The archived BNSF web page indicates 500 lbs to one ton (2000 lbs) of coal can be lost from each rail car. At an average length of 125 cars, a train could lose up to 250,100 lbs/113,000 kgs of coal over the course of a journey. The impact of these losses on public health should be assessed prior to the approval of coal export proposals.

What you need to know about public health and safety risks from Utah’s refineries

*For a complete discussion of the health affects of pollution see “The Health Consequences of Air Pollution” on this site, under the heading Pollution and Health. References for this summary are listed at the end.

1. According the Utah DAQ’s official documents the refineries as a group are the second largest industrial source of pollution after Rio Tinto/Kennecott (RTK) in Salt Lake and Davis Counties. Specifically, RTK is responsible for about 30% of Salt Lake County’s overall air pollution. The Holly oil refinery itself emits about one fifth the amount emitted by RTK. Chevron and Tesoro each emit about 60% of what Holly does. However, see item #6 below. There is strong evidence that these official numbers severely underestimate the refineries emissions which are likely many times larger than those official numbers.
2. The refineries represent a serious safety risk. From 2000 to 2010 Utah’s five refineries have reported fires, explosions, chemical releases and spill, both large and small, on average once every nine days. Numerous serious fires and explosions have occurred in the last few years including one that damaged 271 homes on Nov. 4, 2009.

The safety risks are industry wide and nation wide. A letter from the US Dept of Labor to all the country’s refinery managers said, “In the last fifteen years, the petroleum refining industry has had more fatal or catastrophic incidents related to the release of highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) than any other industry sector…We are particularly concerned that our inspection teams are seeing many of the same problems repeatedly.”

Rafael Moure-Eraso, the Chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said, ““We have a problem with the refinery industry. We have decreasing staff levels, disinvestment in safety, a lack of training, and accidents or near-misses — indicators of catastrophe — being ignored.” U.S. refineries have sustained financial losses from accidents at a rate much higher than their overseas counterparts — four times as high, according to a 2006 report by Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer. They indicated that the gap between refineries and those in other parts of the world was widening.

Russ Elveston, a forensic engineer and safety consultant retired from OSHA said, “All the units are working at higher capacity, higher pressure, higher throughput…hazards have increased simply because the units operating now produce more than they did 15 or 20 years ago. When there’s a release, the results tend to be a little more significant.” On April 2, 2010 the Chemical Safety Board Chairman John Bresland said, “The CSB has 18 ongoing investigations. Of those, seven of these accidents occurred at refineries across the country. This is a significant and disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately.” Michael Silverstein, head of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health and a former federal OSHA policy director said, “The regulatory scheme at both the state and federal levels is flawed. Right now, it’s a catch-me-if-you-can system, and the consequences of being caught are relatively small.”

According to a 2012 report from the Center for Public Integrity, refinery workers describe, “a climate in which safety takes a back seat to ramped-up production. Rather than schedule top-to-bottom maintenance outages, which take units out of operation for extended periods, equipment is being pushed hard, sometimes beyond its design life, the workers say. They have a term for it: ‘Run to failure.’”

“They’re managing their shareholders’ investments,” Dave Campbell, secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 675, which represents workers at five refineries in the Los Angeles area, said of the oil companies. “The price we pay is with our lives and our health.”

Despite a special inspection program launched by OSHA in 2007 — and mirrored by most states that have their own safety programs — problems continue to occur at refineries with stunning regularity. 24 of the 58 refineries examined by federal officials as of November 2010 had fires or explosions after the inspections were completed.

According to a 2010 City Weekly article, Utah refinery workers say, “Mind-numbing overtime is frequently part of the internal inspections because the operators lose profits while the facility is not in production. “Overtime is now the norm, much of it forced.” California maintains a steady presence at refineries rather than simply dropping in, inspecting and writing citations. Utah officially inspects refineries once a year, but many refinery workers say even that doesn’t happen.

3. Tesoro has had even more serious recent safety lapses. On Oct. 21, 2009 the SLC Tesoro refinery had a flare stack explosion. According to a refinery engineer who has consulted with UPHE that is a manifestation of severe incompetence, comparable to a surgeon amputating the wrong limb.

After a fire at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington April 2, 2010 that killed seven workers…an investigation revealed the exchanger that blew apart was put into service in 1972. Tesoro last examined welds on the device in 1998. This was the only time in the exchanger’s 38-year life that such an inspection had taken place. Moreover, it found, Tesoro had tested fewer than 20 percent of the welds and focused on areas least susceptible to damage. Company records indicate that a planned 2008 inspection by Tesoro never took place.

Washington issued the highest fine in the history of the state against Tesoro as a result of this explosion. Judy Schurke, director of the Washington state agency that overseas workplace safety and health said, “This explosion and the deaths of these men and women would never have occurred had Tesoro tested their equipment in a manner consistent with standard industry practices, their own policies and state regulations.” Lynne Baker, spokeswoman for the United Steelworkers, said, “The industry has known that to prevent such an incident from happening, any type of equipment in contact with high temperature hydrogen has to be maintained and inspected more so than in other processes. This was a preventable accident.”

4. Three of Utah’s refineries still use one of the most deadly chemicals known in large quantities even though there are safer alternatives that two thirds of the nation’s refineries have adopted. Despite decades-old warnings about the potential for mass casualties, 50 refineries across the nation still rely on a toxic chemcial known as hydrofluoric acid, or HF. At least 16 million Americans live in the potential path of HF if it were to be released in an accident or a terrorist attack, according to refinery owners’ worst case scenario reports.

Known for its ability to race long distances in a cloud, HF is extremely toxic. It causes lung congestion, inflammation and severe burns of the skin and digestive tract. It attacks the eyes and bones. Experiments in 1986 detected the acid at potentially deadly levels five miles from the point of release. In Utah Chevron, Flying J and Holly all use HF. The EPA requires that every refinery that uses HF calculate what a worst case scenario would look like if an accident involving HF occurred at their refinery. Chevron calculated that 1.1 million people would be at risk and the potential radius of exposure would be 22 miles. For Flying J, it was 376,000 people at risk with a radius of exposure of 11 miles. For Holly it was 216,294 people at risk with a radius of 11 miles.

On October 30, 1987, at Marathon Petroleum Company’s Texas City refinery. A piece of equipment came loose and fell on a vessel containing HF. Over the next 44 hours, tens of thousands of pounds of HF gushed out, drifting into nearby residential areas and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 people. More than 1,000 people went to the hospital. Nationally, there have been at least 29 fires at 23 refineries that use HF since the beginning of 2009. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board called a July 2009 explosion at Citgo Petroleum Corp.’s Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery “a significant near-miss” for a widespread release of highly toxic hydrogen fluoride (HF) into a community.

Trucks entering Utah’s “refinery row” are also carrying HF which puts the local community at serious risk from a possible trucking accident.

5. Oil refinery emissions are higher inside homes near refineries than outside those homes. Toxic pollution from oil refineries doesn’t stay outside, it seeps into nearby homes, and builds up. You can say that residents of South Davis County breathe refinery pollution with every breath they take.

6. Nationwide refinery emissions are many times greater than what is reported to government agencies and the EPA knows it. According to the Associated Press, April 22, 2010, “The nation’s oil and chemical plants are spewing a lot more pollution than they report to the Environmental Protection Agency — and the EPA knows it. Records, scientific studies and interviews suggest pollution from petrochemical plants is at least 10 times greater than what is reported to the government and the public.” How come? The United States is using outdated measuring devices, not the lasers, solar technology and remote sensors used by European countries and Canada. Internal documents from the EPA confirm that, and other reports state that real emissions could be anywhere from 3 to 100 times greater than what is reported, primarily because valve leaks are much greater than what these older methods are detecting. There is every reason to believe that Utah refineries are also vastly underreporting their real emissions.

7. Refinery pollution is uniquely toxic. Crude oils contain over a thousand different hydrocarbons and, depending on the source of the oil, vary greatly in the relative amounts of individual hydrocarbons and trace metal and sulfur content. Refinery emissions are highly contaminated by HAPs (Hazardous Air Pollutants) which are considered highly toxic in very small quantities. HAPs are primarily benzene-like compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and heavy metals.

Benzene is officially considered a carcinogen by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, and the EPA. People who live near oil refineries have the double the risk for leukemia compared the rest of the population. Studies with pregnant animals show that breathing benzene has harmful effects on the developing fetus. These effects include low birth weight, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage.

Long-term exposure to benzene primarily harms the bone marrow, the soft, inner parts of bones where new blood cells are made. This may result in:

• Anemia (a low red blood cell count), which can cause a person to feel weak and tired.

• A low white blood cell count, which can lower the body’s ability to fight infections and may even be life-threatening.

• A low blood platelet count, which can lead to excessive bleeding.

Exposure to benzene near the US permissible limit is associated with sperm having the wrong number of chromosomes. Exposure to petrochemicals, specifically benzene, gasoline, and hydrogen sulphide is significantly associated with increased frequency of spontaneous abortion.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), one of the most serious components of refinery emissions, act as endocrine disrupting hormones in extremely small quantities. They can pass through the placenta and result in concentrations as high in a newborn baby as the baby’s own sex hormones. Endocrine hormones are likely the most powerful biologic agents known. Chemicals that mimick those hormones are known as “endocrine disruptors.” 1/1000 of previously recommended safe dosages of hormone mimickers are now known to create genetic malfunctions and precancerous conditions in in vitro cells.

The Endocrine Society, the official organization of the specialists, endocrinologists, made this official statement on the danger of endocrine disrupting chemicals in 2009. “Even infinitesimally low levels of exposure indeed, any level of exposure at all, may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, particularly if exposure occurs during a critical developmental window. Surprisingly, low doses may even exert more potent effects than higher doses.” The main finding of a new report, three years in the making, published March 14, 2012 by a team of 12 scientists who study hormone-altering chemicals was: small doses can have big health effects, there are no safe doses for endocrine disruptors.

A recent article in the world’s most well respected medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, made this statement. “Mutagenic effects theoretically can result from a single molecular DNA alteration. Regulatory prudence has led to the use of “one-hit models” for mutagenic end points, particularly cancer, in which every molecule of a carcinogen is presumed to pose a risk. The carcinogens of concern in crude oil are benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).”

The article also said, “Pregnant women should particularly avoid dermal contact with oil and should avoid areas with visible oil contamination or odors.”

The proposed Tesoro expansion will increase their annual HAPs emissions by 9,000 lbs/ year. As a group HAPs are the deadliest, most toxic substances known and this may represent the worst of the public health consequences to refinery expansion.

8. Industrial emissions are even more toxic than traffic pollution.

see references below.

9. Children living near petrochemical industries have higher levels of PAHs in their blood than adults, contributing to more DNA damage. see references below.

10. Refinery expansions will increase local diesel emissions from hundreds of new trucks coming in and out of the refineries carrying new crude oil. Two new studies, considered the best ever done on the toxicity of diesel emissions, confirmed that long term exposure to even low levels of diesel exhaust raises the risk of dying from lung cancer: for local residents about 50% and for refinery workers about 300%.

1. Brody, J.G., R. Morello-Frosch, A. Zota, P. Brown, C. Perez and R. Rudel. 2009. Linking Exposure Assessment Science with Policy Objectives for Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Advocacy: The Northern California Household Exposure Study. American Journal of Public Health, 99: S600-S609,

2. Barregard L, E Holmberg and G Sallsten. 2009. Leukaemia incidence in people living close to an oil refinery. Environmental Research 109:985-990.

3. Xing C, Marchetti F, Li G, et al. Benzene exposure near the US permissible limit is associated with sperm aneuploidy. Environ Health Perspect 2010;118:833-839

4. Xu, Xiping, Sung-Il Cho, et al.. “Association of petrochemical exposure with spontaneous abortion.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 55: 31-36. 1998.

5. Bernard D. Goldstein, M.D., Howard J. Osofsky, M.D., Ph.D., and Maureen Y. Lichtveld, M.D., M.P.H. The Gulf Oil Spill. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1334-1348April 7, 2011

6. Silverman DT, Samanic CM, Lubin JH, et al. The diesel exhaust in miners study: a nested case-control study of lung cancer and diesel exhaust. J Natl Cancer Inst. March 2, 2012. doi:10.1093/jnci/djs034.

7. Attfield MD, Schlieff PL, Lubin JH, et al. The diesel exhaust in miners study: a cohort mortality study with emphasis on lung cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. March 2, 2012. doi:10.1093/jnci/djs035.

These refinery expansion plans should be suspended for the following reasons:

1. A health study of what the refinery emissions are doing to the health of residents of South Davis County has never been done and should be done before expansion is allowed.

2. The three refineries that currently use hydrofluoric acid should be required to change to safer alternatives.

3. The refineries should be inspected regularly, not once every few years.

4. The refineries should be required to use remote sensing technology to detect the full extent of their fugitive emissions.

5. The state should adopt a policy that no net increase in refinery related pollution will be allowed.

Contact the EPA and Gov. Herbert’s office with your phone calls and e-mails about why these expansion plans should not be allowed to proceed as planned. The deadline

Care about refinery pollution? Contact

Leukemia: The price of living close to an oil refinery?

Leukemia: The price of living close to an oil refinery?
Mar 05, 2009Barregard L, E Holmberg and G Sallsten. 2009. Leukaemia incidence in people living close to an oil refinery. Environmental Research 109:985-990.
Synopsis by Negin P. Martin, Ph. D

Swedish scientists have discovered a remarkable increase in the incidence of leukemia in people living close to an oil refinery.

Lysekil is one of the largest and most modern oil refineries in Europe. Yet, during the past 10 years, communities downwind of the refinery had twice as many cases of leukemia as would be expected based on the refinery’s low emissions.

But, without further research, the study’s authors can only guess as to why the rates vary so much from risk estimates. It could be due to the emissions, an unknown factor or chance.

A number of scientific studies have raised concerns over cancer risks associated with living close to a refinery. This is the first study to compile and analyze information about cancer incidence in a large Swedish population who live near an oil refinery.

Refineries release organic compounds that can cause cancer. For example, the chemical benzene is associated with an increased risk of leukemia.

Regulatory agencies set safe exposure levels for chemicals by testing for effects at high concentrations, then, using statistical extrapolation to determine safe exposure levels. This method assumes that if exposure goes up so do effects and if exposure goes down so will effects. But, research is beginning to show that chemicals do not always follow this rule and may cause different effects at higher and lower levels.

Based on the results, the organic pollutant levels in the exposed areas were well below accepted levels and the incident of cancer should not have increased. But actual measurements showed a doubling in the risk for leukemia in the last 10 years.

The scientists note that more studies are needed to determine why the rates varied so much from predictions. Further research could discern if the increased incidence of leukemia is caused by – rather than just associated with – the refinery’s emissions or if some other unknown factor is responsible.

Researchers studied seven parishes in the vicinity of the Lysekil refinery on the west coast of Sweden. Two parishes located 2 to 5 kilometers downwind from the refinery were classified as exposed to refinery fumes. Five other parishes that were greater than 7 kilometers away from the refinery were used for comparison.

The average amount of air pollutants in exposed parishes was estimated from air sample measurements provided by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute. The average exposure was similar to that found in a Swedish city with road traffic, except the levels of propene were five times higher.

The number of refinery employees as well as geological and socioeconomic backgrounds of inhabitants in exposed and unexposed parishes were similar in the exposed and unexposed groups. Within these populations, leukemia cases and total cancer incidence from 1975 – the year that refinery was built – to 2004 were retrieved from the Regional Swedish Cancer Registry.

Reference parishes used as control groups had the expected rates of leukemia and other combined types of cancers. In exposed parishes, the incidence of leukemia was 50 percent higher than expected for the past 30 years – 33 cases were found when only 22 were statistically expected. The highest number of leukemia cases was reported in the last 10 years with 19 cases when only 8.5 would be expected.

The oil refinery and the people in the community were made aware of the study’s findings.

Health Risks: Tar sands, Refineries, Pipelines

The purpose of this research project is to answer the basic question: Do those who live close to refineries and/or tar sand extractions sites and/or who work in occupations related to refineries and tar sands have a greater risk of illness, e.g., cancer, as a result?

Tentative Research Agenda

1) Literature Review:

Research studies of links, if any, between; 1) occupation, 2) geographical location and types of illnesses, particularly cancers. Are there studies of particular types of cancers by occupation/industry and location/residence.

2) Data

I am filing Freedom of Information requests with the City of Burnaby on the number of complaints made by Burnaby residents over time on oil spills, evacuation orders, noise complaints, health risks, follow-up to resident’s complaints, programs, and minutes of meetings regarding by-laws to regulate the oil pipeline and refinery industry.

We need to know which government agencies, groups, NGOs etc collect information on cancer rates by residence and/or location of subject (since privacy is going to be an issue, perhaps types of cancers by treatment center or data that can help identify location, and industry or occupation of subject.

A few potential sources come to mind:

Cancer Society
Health Canada
Statistics Canada
Local Health Authorities