Gulf Oil Spill fumes adversely affect workers health


Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico is a primetime news all the time from almost two months and I think it has a good reason.  This oil spill from BP oil rig is biggest oil spill in the US history.  I was surprised by a recent action taken by the company to burn the oil in Gulf of Mexico as it is releasing massive amount of fume in the atmosphere. 

According to Center for Disease and Control (CDC), more than 12,600 workers are involved in the cleaning of oil from the shores of states affected by the oil spill.  The question is – Are these workers affected by the burning of oi?  Dr. Phil Harber, head of the division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, thinks that the most immediate risk is to “cleanup workers” or others in proximity to the burn, which would depend on eventual scope of burn, length of clean up.  Dr. Harber acknowledged that “People with asthma, or who are very young, or who have cardiac disease, are much more likely to be sensitive the released pollutants.”

What is the main constituent of smoke?
Dr. Harber said that the black cloud is largely made up of small particles that can lodge deep in the lungs. It also contains gases such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, and volatile compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which at high exposures are considered a trigger for cancer.

If oil is not burn, do the volatile compounds from oil affect health of workers?
Two agencies have been monitoring the environment in vicinity of...

the oil spill

EPA acknowledged that ozone and particulate level in Gulf Coast affected area are no different from usual for this time of the year.  Also, OSHA issued a memorandum emphasizing on proper safety equipment and training for all cleanup workers.

In spite of EPA assessment, hospitals have reported increase complaint of symptoms including headaches, nausea and dizziness for dozen from cleanup workers.  According to CNN, two companies who are helping out in cleaning effort, namely Global Industries, and Boots and Coots – have not commented that if they have implemented the special precautions to protect against the smoke.

I think this oil crisis is a very difficult situation for the oil company and affected area. The cleaning effort is very crucial to bring back the life of affected area to normal.  One thing is still unclear, when will the oil spill be contained to its full extent.  Reasonable precaution should be taken by the cleanup workers as the information and data regarding health safety risk is less.  Remember, precaution is better than cure.

Healthy Cleaning!!

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