I recently got a job filming a documentary series (this is what reality television is now called) in northern British Columbia. The details of the show have been sealed away and for the sake of a nondisclosure agreement I will not reveal them here.
What I do want to delve into is the fact that the town I am working in is built around an oil plant. What, dear girlfriends, does living in the close proximity of a sea of fluorocarbons do to a girl (or boy or cow for that matter)?
A study published in Environment International in May, 2004 looked at the rate of Preterm delivery in Taiwanese women. The study found that women living near oil refineries in Taiwan were 20% more likely to have preterm deliveries than those living in other areas.
Given that I am not and never have been pregnant, this does not phase me in any way shape or form.
The International Journal of Epidemiology in 2002 published a study looking at the geographical differences in cancer in the Amazon basin based on proximity to oil refineries. Since 1972, oil companies have extracted more then 2 billion barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The relative risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, kidney and skin were dramatically higher in those people living in close proximity to oil fields in Ecuador.
Again, the fact that I am nowhere near the Amazon is not lost on me.
A further Italian study in 2002 published in the Archives of Environmental Health looked at the cancer rates in Italy between 1980 and 1997. When controlling for all other risk factors (such as family history and smoking) there was an increase risk in cancers of the lung, colon, bladder and increased rates of leukemia in association with living proximity to industrial plants.
There is little data on the health risks of “visitors” to the refinery but I am assuming there has to be a bit of a “dose response”. In other words, when it comes to cancer risk…. Three days a week over the summer is a relatively low dose of exposure relative to living next to an oil refinery… It’s a nice place to visit but I would not want to live there.
Forgive me if I am on an “oil rampage” right now.
I can no longer watch what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. My beloved is thoroughly obsessed with a broken oil well below the ocean that truly makes my heart ache. Last night I dreamt I was a manatee drowning in oil.
This may in part be due to the fact that I ate some funky cheese before bed and then listened to Jason rattle off the latest “BP STATS”. Every night before bed, he sits with his iPhone and details for me just how much oil has seeped into the Gulf that day and just how screwed we are.
Tonight I find myself in Northern BC only a few kilometers from the Alaska Highway and near one of the largest oil refineries in the land. Do my lungs now look like the Coast of Florida?
I know there is no comparison. I can only hope this planet will heal. I know I am a hypocrite. I participate in the benefits of the industrial revolution but hate to accept when the risks take hold. My BTU’s alone are an insult to humanity. I will try and do my little part. I will try and be as “green” as possible. I will carbon offset my ass off.
And every week that I fly up north to spend three days in the eye of the monster, I will breathe in and breathe out and hope for the best.