The Human Health Threat


I take issue with the reports floating around declaring that the human health risk surrounding the spill is minimal. This isn’t rocket science. Oil slicks have made people sick in the past.  For example, in 2003, when the Greek tanker Tasman Spirit spilled more than 35,000 tons of oil along seven miles highly-populated coastline, local hospitals reported significantly increased cases of headaches, nausea and dizziness. We will live to regret it if we don’t take the human health threat seriously. It’s absolutely essential that volunteers and local populations prepare in case the worst should happen. How do oil slicks affect human health? Expert toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer names three primary risks:

1. Repeated contact increases the risk of skin cancer and other maladies.

2. As oil releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nearby populations may develop upper respiratory irritation and neurological effects.

3. The oil could create higher ozone levels. In urban areas, ozone levels in excess of 40 parts per billion are associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

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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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