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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Sands of Time

As I write this, my girlfriends, I am within spitting distance of the Alberta Oil Sands. No my girlfriends, I am not working the rigs... instead I am doing a little Intensive Care Medicine in Fort McMurray, ALberta.

For those of you who have never been to Fort Mac- heads up- it is the Sodom and Gomora of Canada. No disrespect to this little town who treated me so kindly and was the best medicine I've seen in a while- but here's the deal, my girlfriends- the town is full of young men who work on the rigs and make an obscene amount of money. Put a bunch of 20 somethings ina town with nothing to do on a saturday night but illicit substances and give them enough money to take more than the daily requirements of ecstasy and you have a fascinating study of what the human body was never meant to do.

Enter yours truly, my cybersisters- just a city girl in search of a place to practice good medicine and well- what my eyes have seen. One week on call in the Intensive Care Unit with an August long  weekend thrown in for extra medical fun. I will not delve into the effects of too much alcohol consumption on the mind of a 25 year old man.

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…. one week at a time 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.

Perhaps I am a little paranoid these days- I've switched my Melatonin supplier and have found that it is making me have the most reassuring but mind altering nightmares...

I must admit- I feel a bit guilty over the fact that I take full advantage of these oil sands in my daily life but worry about their proximity to me in the real world.

Yes, I continue to try to do my best to reduce my carbon foot print but really- I suspect my shoes do expend some earthly resources in order to come to be.

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 time I stand over a young man in the Emergency room in Fort McMurray and ask him how much cocaine he took in order to cause his heart attack, I will remember that everything in this world has a place and a purpose. As for mine? The line's a bit fuzzy right now.. perhaps it is the fumes from the pits.

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