BP Oil Spill Pollution: Hold Your Breath


It’s all over for the “all clear” crowd. A new study about how oil from the BP spill evaporated into the air and was carried into populated areas is going viral, and not even screaming “Mission Accomplished” on TV will make it go away.

The study, reports Mark Schleifstein at the Times-Picayune, “…does not directly address the environmental and human health effects of the aerosols, the results do indicate that offshore clean-up workers were exposed to both the vapors and the aerosol compounds, and that prevailing winds may have carried the aerosols onshore, said Joost de Gouw, lead author of the peer-reviewed report in the March 11 edition of Science magazine.”

Are we done here? What’s called for now is not more studies or more anything – what we must now have is a massive federal response to the human health crisis. These are peer-reviewed studies, and they not only show how little we’ve known about this kind of disaster but how little our government gives a damn.

Again from the Times-Picayune report “…when inhaled, both sizes of particles [that blew inland] can reach deep inside of lungs, resulting in health problems, ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment in cities and national parks.”

The study says there was a plume stretching from the Macondo well northwest toward the mouth of the Mississippi River. A much wider plume of aerosols associated with the heavier compounds was found stretching across the northern edge of the oil, also moving northwest with prevailing winds toward the Louisiana coastline.

Look, the most difficult thing about about not knowing just how much damage a spill of this size, in this environment, can do is just that: We don’t know. This is a bomb-shell finding, peer-reviewed and published in a highly respected journal. Yet we continue to ask people to make decisions about their lives, and continue to sound the all-clear? Continue to ask victims to settle financial damages based on two years of damage? Shameless.

This is a landmark turn in the Gulf spill. Read the Times-Picayune coverage here on nola.com: http://mobile.nola.com/advnola/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=csuZ61Yt&full=true#display

A podcast on this study featuring de Gouw is available on the web through CIRES at http://cires.colorado.edu/news/press/2011/gulf-air-quality.html.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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