This morning, President Obama spoke to the press about the Gulf Oil Spill. The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast has given us little predictability as to what the future holds for this catastrophic event. This is the worst oil spill in US history; therefore raising many questions that have never been answered before. With tar balls now showing up on the beaches in Galveston County Texas (some 400 miles away from the source of the spill) the consequences of this spill are very much unknown. The health of the people in the Gulf Coast area is obviously an immediate concern.
Little research has been carried out on the long-term effects of oil spills on people’s health. Those who are currently doing research on the potential health risks of oil presume that most of the health concerns will be short term. However, they do fear potential long-term damage to the liver, lungs, and kidneys. These short-term and long-term health concerns would be resultant of the oil fumes that workers are subject to while cleaning up the spill. Other research has found that those working to clean up the oil may experience temporary DNA damage that the body will repair itself over time.
On a more positive note, physical contact with the oil does not pose many health threats. The oil itself is potentially harmless. Although some people may experience a rash from skin contact with oil, this is only temporary skin irritation. Health officials announce that you are not in notable danger if you touch or swallow small amounts of oil, but it is not advised to do so.
How we choose to manage the present circumstances of the BP Oil Spill can be controlled. Hence, BP has organized clean-up crews in a particular manner. Complaints have been recorded of an irrational amount of volunteers “standing around” at clean-up sights. What they don’t realize is that this particular strategy has been arranged to prevent potential health risks to the volunteers. The volunteers at the spill clean-up spill sites are working in near 100 degree temperatures. Extended water breaks and shorter working periods reduces the potential of heat-related health risks, such as heatstroke and dehydration. It also increases the clean-up efficiency of the volunteers
One health concern that has been deemed inevitable is the mental health of residents in the area of the BP Oil Spill. Mental health issues are bound to arise because it has happened in every past oil spill. Residents in the areas affected by the oil spill have higher rates of depression and other mental health issues as a result of the spill. This ensues as a direct result of damages to the resident’s homes, beaches, and jobs. People lose their jobs because tourism in the area decreases as a direct result of the damages to tourist attractions (especially beaches). Also, those in the fishing industry lose their jobs because the oil contaminates many fish and people are more concerned with consuming fish.
While working to clean up the most disastrous Oil Spill in US history, all those involved with the Spill must take precaution. With so much unknown about the potential health threat of oil, research could potentially find that it is toxic. It is best to take safety measures. The oil itself contains organic compounds, which can be carcinogenic. Those working with oil or around oil fumes have a high risk of exposure to these carcinogens in the oil, such as benzene.