Dr. John O’Connor is the family physician who first identified higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.
The first signs came from the animals, he says, The local muskrat population began to die off. They became harder to find, and when they were found, they were often dead or the meat would smell like oil and taste bad.
“[Local fishers] talked about the fish that they were catching with increasing regularity,” O’Connor said. “These fish had deformities and missing parts and extra parts. Fish with red blotches all over them. Fish didn’t taste the same. Many of the elders, traditional food consumers, threw the fish back into the lake.”
Robert Grandjambe Jr., a trapper and fisher in Fort Chipewyan, displays sick fish from Lake Athabasca. Photo by Kris Krug for Desmog.ca.
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