We are now into the 50 plus day of the Gulf Oil spill. Photos of wildlife, workers and water-nesters dwelling in the southern region of the country are shown helpless, sickly and covered in toxic black crude oil. News stories are reporting workers are becoming ill and having symptoms due to working near and close to the oil spill. Who knows what is in the air out there? The burning and timely question many individuals want to know is, “How will the oil disaster impact our health?”
Here Dr. Gupta further gives us more answers and details of what is going on:
We are in the midst of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. Right now the oil slick is traveling along the Gulf Coast, but scientists predict it could soon creep up the Atlantic coast. This has many people wondering about how all of this could impact their health.
In the short-term, the biggest health risks come from inhaling vapors from the oil. For some, that could cause irritation in the nose, eyes, and throat, while others may experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or headaches. The bellwether group – the group that gives us the first signs of a problem – includes people with breathing problems, like asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Their lungs are more sensitive to airborne toxins.
And then there is the long-term potential impact of the oil, particularly on the environment and our food. “Contaminants in oil can persist for years and accumulate in the food chain, causing elevated cancer risks or neurological risks,” said Gina Solomon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The concern from environmental groups like NRDC stems from contaminants contained in oil – mercury, lead, arsenic, and certain hydrocarbons – which are known to cause cancer.
The state of Louisiana says it is fending off the threat to the food supply by closing down areas where contaminants could impact fish populations, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fish says they will not allow products on the market that could compromise public safety.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set up air monitors along the Gulf Coast and thus far is not reporting unusual health risks due to the oil spill. While there are particular areas where air quality is of concern (for instance Kenner, Louisiana, and City Park, Louisiana), the Environmental Protection Agency stresses this is not unusual for this region, at this time of year.
For now, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is advising those with respiratory conditions, along with young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems, to avoid areas affected by the oil spill.
Stay tuned more updates.
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