08/15/2012 22:09 EDT | Updated 10/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Doctors Call For Study Of Oil Sands' Impact On Health

This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows a tar sands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada. Environmentalists hoping to block a proposed underground oil pipeline that would snake 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico have pinned their hopes on an unlikely ally _ the conservative state of Nebraska where opposition to Keystone XL pipeline has risen steadily since the project was proposed three years ago. Public hearings will start Sept. 27, in Lincoln on the 16-inch steel pipe that if built would carry oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

Doctors with the Canadian Medical Association are calling for more research into the health effects of resource extraction projects such as the Alberta oil sands.

The motions didn't pass without debate — some doctors felt Alberta's oil industry was being singled out. But Dr. Ewan Affleck from Yellowknife said people along the Mackenzie River are concerned specifically about that development.

“The reason we raised the issue about the oil sands is very directly, the effluent, or the outflow, from the oil sands comes right into the N.W.T. and through communities where we provide care,” he said.

Affleck said many of his patients ask him about the health effects of that run-off but he needs more evidence to answer their concerns.

He pushed for a motion that calls for a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study into the long-term effects of development on the environment and health. Another motion calls for the government to make that kind of data public.

Doctors will use the motions to advocate on behalf of their patients.