MOBILE, Ala. — The number of residents reporting oil-related health effects from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues to rise in coastal Alabama.
At least 197 people have gone to local emergency rooms, clinics and urgent care centers since May 14 complaining of ailments thought to be related to the oil spill, Alabama Department of Public Health officials reported today.
That compares with 78,427 patients treated for non-trauma care overall during that period. Health officials are conducting surveillance across the state to monitor effects related to the spill at more than 20 sites in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Fifty-seven of the patients complaining of oil-caused symptoms were exposed via inhalation, 35 by contact, five through ingestion, nine patients reported multiple exposures, and 91 were exposed indirectly, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Direct exposures are exposures to oil or oil by-products through contact, inhalation or ingestion, according to public health officials. Indirect exposures occur because of other circumstances associated with the oil spill. For example, heat exhaustion during cleanup efforts or mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, would be examples of indirect exposure, said Dr. Thomas Miller, with the Alabama Department of Public Health.