Video from the Vault: Beware the Air in the Gulf


Originally posted 8/16/2010.

There’s no doubt that the science of exactly how oil poisons us can be daunting. But a new video is out featuring an LSU toxicologist who walks you through the chemistry. This is a particularly important video if you worked in cleanup or were otherwise directly exposed to the air around the spill – or live down along the Gulf Coast.

This gets a little technical so bear with me. Dr. Vincent Wilson discusses the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contained in crude oil, and their dangers. Just like animals, we humans metabolize PAHs. That process turns the PAHs into carcinogenic material that binds to our DNA. The PAH reaction with DNA makes it mutagenic and carcinogenic. Dr. Wilson does well in explaining an issue that many of us familiar with long-term oil exposure believe is being overlooked in this disaster: Long-term exposure to even low levels of PAHs presents a serious cancer risk, and it can take years for any symptoms to surface.

Among other things, Dr. Wilson also explains that some of the more dangerous chemicals in the oil-spill air go right through those little masks, and that respirators are the only viable protection option. He also outlines how the impacts of the spill might take some time to manifest themselves, especially their effects on human health.

Learn more about the health risks in the Gulf:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – 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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