The BP oil spill will subject people in the gulf coast region to different kinds of health risks, both short and long term. 71 have already been hospitalized in Louisiana so far as a result of oil spill. Short term exposure to the vapor is linked to dizziness, eye and throat irritation and asthma. Many more hospitalizations are to come.
Following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, over 11,000 clean up workers sought medical attention as a result of the exposure. This kind of problem promises to be at least as bad now with the BP disaster, especially when you consider that petroleum distillates in the dispersants (1 million gallons have been reportedly use) may pose an even greater problem especially to workers in terms of skin and lung irritants. And certain kinds of dispersants used (Corexit) contain 2-butoxyethanol, a compound that has been linked to long term kidney and liver problems.
The EPA has asked BP to stop using toxic dispersants, but has been unsuccessful so far.
According to the CDC crude oil waste disintegrates over time, and brief contact will do no harm (except for some skin rashes). In terms of inhalation, as CDC reports, the risk is from volatile hydrocarbons which can lead to headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, and vomiting.
More concerning is the long term cancer risk that appears to be associated with the hydrocarbons and heavy metals including mercury and lead that some will have prolonged exposure to. These toxins will also find their way into the fish we eat, even if there is a ban imposed.
After the Exxon Valdez spill, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1993 showed there was a marked increased incidence of anxiety, depression and PTSD in communities affected. I expect even more of a problem here in the gulf coast states, where the population is far more dense than Alaska, and many will be out of work as the fishing industry collapses.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008. His upcoming book concerns a mysterious viral outbreak.