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Canadian oil sands pollute nearby lakes. Report is blow to Keystone pipeline.

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Todd Korol/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A worker holds a cup of crude oil to be tested at the Cenovus Foster Creek SAGD oil sands operations near Cold Lake, Alberta, in this July 2012 file photo. Production at the Athabasca oil sands has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, reaching about 1.5 million barrels a day in 2010.

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Production at the world's third largest source of oil has polluted surrounding waters with toxic substances, according to a new study. The findings add fuel to a fiery debate over a proposed pipeline connecting Canadian oil sands with US refineries.

Lakes as far as 56 miles away from production facilities near Fort McMurray, Alberta, show unnaturally high levels of substances linked to cancer. Researchers say they are the result of roughly half a century of development at the Athabasca oil sands.

While concentrations of carcinogens remain low compared with those found in urban lakes, scientists at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, called the findings, released Monday, "worrying" and warned of future effects from the spread of oil sands contaminants.


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