Ottawa – A new study in the journal Nature finds that Alberta’s oilsands are one of the largest sources of organic aerosol air pollution in North America.
Data from airborne measurements over the bitumen-producing region found that oilsands production contributes at least 45 to 84 tonnes a day of the tiny particulate matter – comparable to mega-cities such as Paris and Mexico City.
The study, whose lead co-author is an Environment Canada scientist, says secondary organic aerosol production should be taken into consideration when assessing the environmental impact of current and planned oilsands development.
And it suggests heavy-oil extraction projects around the globe are likely large sources of this type of air pollution.
Secondary organic aerosols are produced when volatile organic compounds interact with sunlight and other airborne chemicals to create tiny particles, which have been found to cause lung and heart problems and other health effects.
The Nature study found that low-volatility organic vapours from mined oilsands material are directly responsible for the majority of the observed secondary organic aerosols downwind from oilsands projects.
The Canadian Press