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Keystone XL Pipeline Leads to American Cancer Corridor

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.

An open pit mine in the tar sands oil fields of Alberta, Canada.

An open pit mine in the tar sands oil fields of Alberta, Canada.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Corrosive Carcinogens, Illegal Actions, Little Profit

The controversial 1,400-mile-long Keystone XL Pipeline Extension that would connect the Alberta, Canada tar sand (oil sand) fields to Texas has been protested for years by many groups, blockaded by Native Americans to guard against water pollution, and had its funding revoked or denied by banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, US Bank, and TD Bank in Seattle and 50 other cities in 2017.

Oh, my God, this isn't oil!

— Saul Elbein, October 2017

Tar sands cause cancer and corrode metal pipelines faster than other crude oils. They consist of a mixture of sand, clay, water, and bitumen, the thick, sticky, caustic, black, carcinogenic substance that often forms when lighter oil is degraded by bacteria. The oil and tar sands refinery byproduct benzene is also a known carcinogen according to the EPA. Sulphur, mercury, and lead are other dangerous byproducts.

Unethical Procedures in Construction of Keystone XL

Although some American political groups call for the XL pipeline to be completed and used in order to create jobs and lower gasoline prices, these benefits are actually not in the offing:

  • Tar sands would flow very slowly, undergo processing in Texas, and be sent back up the pipes to Canada. Refining produces large amounts of petroleum coke, a hazardous carcinogenic byproduct, and huge ponds of toxic waste.
  • American jobs on the XL would only be temporary and short-term, and the U.S. would gain no oil or gasoline. In fact, when the project was to be completed by 2020 (now blocked), there was to be no financial commitment from Canadian tar sands oil producers for further production growth. The U.S. could look forward to a loss of jobs and increased terminal illnesses.
  • Subpar Russian-manufactured pipes from oligarchs for the XL Extension have been transported illegally through North and South Dakota over Indigenous reserves. The Governor of South Dakota had illegally allowed Canadian construction material trucks to cross reservations without tribal permission and without the standard fees required by the state government. Meanwhile, nine nearby First Nations in BC also banned oil tankers in all their territories. Previously, 200,000 acres of tribal lands were taken illegally via flooding on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the Oahe Dam that is near the proposed XL Extension. That water would be polluted with carcinogens from the extension.
  • Port Arthur refineries at the end of the proposed XL line would cause increased incidence rates of cancer and other terminal diseases, which have already been higher than the average U.S. rate: cancer by 15% and all-cause mortality by 40%, with fence line pollutants exceeding Obama era limits by 148%.

Cancerous Results

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing increasing shortages of medical personnel and facilities, an ever-increasing cancer incidence along the EL extension will worsen both shortages, requiring even more staff and more hospitals.

In February 2014, Alberta Health Services listed 6,800 jobs, with 2,450 of these jobs related to cancer. The proportion of jobs available in the American states along oil and tar sands pipelines is increasing in healthcare overall and in cancer detection and treatment. By April 2022, cancer-related jobs available in Texas included over 5,800 vacancies according to, with about 1,000 such vacancies in and near both the refinery hub of Port Arthur and Houston, the site of additional refineries.

On June 9, 2021, TC Energy confirmed that after a comprehensive review of its options, and in consultation with its partner, the Government of Alberta, it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.


Cancer Corridors in Alberta and U.S.A.

Oil and tar sands pipelines already exist from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, with cancer incidence increasing along the pipelines. The green line represents the cancelled XL extension.

Oil and tar sands pipelines already exist from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, with cancer incidence increasing along the pipelines. The green line represents the cancelled XL extension.

Cancer Corridor from Alberta, Canada to Houston, Texas

An officially named Cancer Corridor exists through the province of Alberta, Canada with its own network of cancer specialty hospitals. Major cities along this corridor include Fort Chipewyan in the northeast, southward through Grand Prairie, Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge near the Canada-U.S. border.

Lethbridge Cancer Hospital has developed a top regional radiation treatment center as well, and additional such treatment facilities developed in Grand Prairie and Red Deer beginning in 2012. Such facilities will likely become necessary between the Canadian Border and the Gulf of Mexico soon.

Tar Sands Blockade banner near construction for the Keystone XL pipeline in Winnsboro, Texas; October 2012.

Tar Sands Blockade banner near construction for the Keystone XL pipeline in Winnsboro, Texas; October 2012.

Besides the XL extension, now cancelled, oil and tar sands pipelines already exist from Hardisty in Alberta southward to Port Arthur, Texas refineries, with the incidence of cancer along the U.S. sections increasing markedly in the six states of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The XL Extension would have spread carcinogens to the west as well (please see the image above).

Fort Chipewyan's Dr. John O’Connor warned U.S. Senators of the health dangers of tar sands in 2014, reporting that Canadian federal and AB provincial governments were denying significant peer-reviewed evidence of a cancer incidence rate 400 times the average for the area downstream of a large tar sands deposit near a First Nations reserve. Refining tar sands produces growing toxic lakes that are growing by 1.8 liters (475,510 gallons) daily.

Cancerous Winds Along the Pipes

A study released in the autumn of 2013 found that air pollution directly resulting from tar sands operations affects all residents downwind. The residents are at risk of various cancers because of unsafe levels toxic chemicals in the air above and to the sides of the pipelines and refineries. Cancer and other damages are found in the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and central nervous system of residents downwind, caused by pollution from bitumen, benzene, toluene, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and lead.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory places Jefferson County, Texas among the very worst in the nation for air releases of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders. In a state that regularly records in excess of 2,500 toxic emissions events per year, Port Arthur is near the top of the list of offending cities.

— Ted Genoways, Natural Resources Defense Council/On Earth.

The XL Pipeline and the Black Snake Prophecy

Among the bands of the Sioux Nation from Canada to the American Great Plains, the ancient Black Snake Prophecy states that a black snake will move underground and destroy the waters and all Earth.

A similar Hopi prophecy refers to the danger as a sea creature that will turn the world's oceans to black. Many North American indigenous nations have linked the prophecy with the controversial tar sands transport through Canada and the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico.

Prosecutions for Tar Sands Safety/Ethics Violations?

CEOs whose businesses are complicit in human rights atrocities -- like the mass murder of people who object to land-grabs by mineral extraction companies -- can now be tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Patty Inglish MS