Above: Tar sands operation in Alberta, Canada. Photo by Howl Arts Collective.

Madelon Finkel, PhD, professor of Healthcare Policy and Research and director of the Office of Global Health Education at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and member of PSE’s Board of Directors, authored the study “The impact of oil sands on the environment and health”, published online on May 14, 2018 in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. Finkel evaluates the environmental impacts of oil sands, the health risks from exposure to diluted bitumen, and the need to understand these impacts following the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline which will carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to the United States.


Oil sands (e.g., tar sands oil, crude bitumen), unlike crude oil, is a comparatively “dirty” fuel. From an environmental perspective, there is ample evidence that pipeline spills, leaks, and ruptures releasing diluted bitumen can have serious implications for the surrounding land and water. From a health perspective, there is growing evidence to show that exposure to diluted bitumen in the short-term can cause mild to serious adverse events. The potential long-term adverse health effects is not clear. Approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta, Canada through the mid-section of the United States, increases the urgency to understand better the potential harms of exposure to this product.

Access to the full publication available here.