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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Health concerns emerge over BP oil spill

By Bill Lindner

Seventy-three days after the Gulf Coast oil crisis began, people are being advised to avoid some coastal areas affected by the BP oil spill. Also, there are concerns over the health and safety of workers involved in clean-up efforts.
More than two months since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up, causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, oil continues spewing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico and reaching land in several states. Now health concerns of residents and cleanup workers in the areas affected by the spill are growing.
There are reports from parts of Florida that water in the Gulf may not be safe for swimming. The CDC says that swimming in water affected by the oil spill will be unpleasant and could be harmful. They also recommend avoiding contact with oil that ends up on shore because coming into close contact with the oil for long periods of time can be harmful. CNN reports a health advisory was issued Thursday for all beaches in Escambia County, including Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and parts of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Advisories were also issues for beaches along certain stretches of Mississippi and Alabama.
In Louisiana, the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau website reports "most of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, 70 percent, is unaffected by the oil spill and remains open for commercial and recreational fishing...All affected areas, as well as areas of uncertainty, have been closed to fishing by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in portions of Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and Terrebonne parishes."
More oil will be pushed onto Gulf Coast beaches and further inland this hurricane season, which will reportedly shut down BP's clean up and recovery efforts for a couple weeks.
'Large gaps' in health data of the 34,000 workers that are cleaning up the largest oil spill in U.S. history are reportedly reaping concern that British Petroleum (BP) will cover up problems should they arise.
According to a Business Week report, there are few studies on the long-term ramifications of exposure to crude oil toxins, but a 2002 study from the Prestige Oil spill off the Galician Coast found biomarkers indicating that those cleanup workers, coastal residents and fishermen faced a higher-risk of cancer than the rest of the population.
Business Week reported that Linda McCauley, dean of the Emory University's school of nursing in Atlanta who led a panel on health effects of the Gulf spill at a U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) hearing, is worried about transparency because the cleanup workers are hired by the same company responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

CDC Advises People to Avoid the Oil and Spill-affected Areas

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claims to have reviewed sampling data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and says that levels of the chemical dispersant are 'well below' the level that could harm pregnant women or their unborn children, but goes on to say that the effects of the chemicals depends on many factors. The CDC is working with the EPA to monitor the levels of oil in the environment.
The CDC further notes that: "People, including pregnant women, can be exposed to these chemicals by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (water, food), or by touching them (skin). If possible, everyone, including pregnant women, should avoid the oil and spill-affected areas" and recommends using a N95 respirator mask -- something BP refuses to let cleanup workers wear -- with an odor control feature to provide some relief from the smell in the Gulf Coast, but says you do not need to use one for your safety based on what they know now.
Some of the chemicals in the dispersant can cause harm to people under some conditions according to the CDC. For most people, brief contact with small amounts of oil spill dispersant won't be harmful, but longer contact with them can cause a rash, dry skin, and eye irritation. Breathing in or swallowing the dispersant can cause nausea, vomiting and possibly throat and lung irritation.
BusinessWeek also reported that children are among the most-susceptible population after the spill workers. Children could be more prone to inhalation problems associated with the spill, absorption through their skin and ingestion because children tend to put things in their mouths and fail to follow public guidelines.

More Than a Million Gallons of Corexit Dumped into the Gulf

Eight researchers interviewed by Business Week over a period of several days said that the government must track the extent of the exposure, gather consistent and clear data, and routinely test cleanup workers to detect early signs of problems.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has $10 million set aside to study the public health impact of the oil spill which will focus on cleanup workers and residents in the Gulf Coast. The health problems won't be limited to physical ailments and illnesses. Louisiana officials are reportedly warning of a potential mental health crisis in communities affected by the oil spill and are calling on BP to fund mental health programs.
In May, the EPA Administrator reportedly promised to conduct tests to determine the least toxic, most effective dispersant available in the volumes necessary for a crisis the magnitude of the Gulf Coast spill. As of June 27, those tests have not been completed and at least 1.4 million gallons of Corexit has been dumped into the Gulf. There have already been widespread reports of cleanup crews suffering from various injuries including respiratory distress, dizziness and headaches.
The Corexit dispersant is also suspected of inflicting widespread crop damage and a whistle blower is reportedly testifying that BP's use of Corexit is a deliberate attempt to sink oil as a coverup. The last two months have revealed why anyone would worry about BP withholding information or covering things up: BP's most recent coverup reportedly involves trucking in sand to cover up the oil on the beaches instead of cleaning the oil up.
A recent article from the New York Times that claims the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) -- which enforces worker-safety standards onshore and near shore in the Gulf of Mexico -- continues affirming that its tests show no risk of unsafe chemical exposures among responders to the spill from the chemical dispersant being used by BP despite the Environmental Protection Agency's directive to stop using them.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that "As much as 1 million times the normal level of methane gas has been found in some regions near the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, enough to potentially deplete oxygen and create a dead zone, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday."

Majority of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Cleanup Workers now Dead

BP said that Methane makes up about 40 percent of the leaking crude by mass in late May. Large amounts of toxic hydrogen sulfide, benzene and methylene chloride -- in addition to the Methane -- are also leaking into the Gulf. Throw in the toxic dispersant being used by BP and you've got a deadly chemical cocktail that could easily be absorbed and spread by hurricanes, killing virtually everything it comes into contact with, including humans. Plans are reportedly being put in place for the mandatory evacuation of cities and towns within a 200-mile radius of the gusher.
Rachel Maddow recently pointed out that BP netted $58.5 billion over the past three years. They reportedly spent $29 million researching safer ways to drill over those same three years and spent nothing -- zero dollars -- researching how to respond to an oil spill. BP falsified their clean up response plan, which the U.S. government quickly approved, using dead experts. A recently uncovered BP document bragged of Gulf of Mexico growth and cheap production costs.
A recent CNN report claims that the vast majority of those who worked on the clean up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 are now dead, and one expert told CNN that the life expectancy for those who worked on it is about 51 years. The Gulf of Mexico spill has surpassed the Exxon Valdez many times over and will continue doing so. A video released by John L. Wathen reveals some of the damage done by the oil spill that paints a damning picture of oil saturated water that is killing schools of dolphins and more.
A lengthy article from Uruknet -- Gulf Coast Toxicity Syndrome -- reports on effects from the oil spill that you can see, like oil washing ashore, and those you can't see, like when oil compounds break down and go airborne, highlighting part of the nightmare unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, the disastrous cost to mankind, and the epic, ongoing coverup by Federal health officials, the government and BP.
Why is BP in charge of the oil spill response? A report from the Washington Examiner reveals just how bad BP's clean up response has been. There are reports of shoddy disposal work being done by cleanup workers hired by BP that is actually doing more harm than good.
The Institute of Medicine recently held a two-day workshop assessing the human health effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Information from the EPA regarding health and the oil spill can be found at their website. It's impossible to say what the overall health impact will be at the moment, and as noted by Daily Finance, there are far more questions than answers at this stage. More information on crude oil spills and health can be found from the National Library of Medicine, the CDC, and the LSU media center.

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