-Guest Columnist: Liz Hopwood, BioVeda Health and Wellness Center
Allergists are extremely worried about how the oil spill is being cleaned up and the health risk it poses to people with serious breathing problems, like asthma.
There are several ways an oil spill is harmful to human health. When oil is burned, people can inhale volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons. These oil vapors can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, eye and throat irritation, and breathing difficulties. When people inhale large amounts of fumes, they are in danger of a chemical poisoning called hydrocarbon pneumonia.
According to Dr. Marcel Casacant, Chief of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.“Smoke from burning oil contains many chemicals; some are potentially lethal poisons and some are nuisance irritants, but even these nuisance irritants can trigger breathing problems in people with asthma or emphysema or other lung disease.”
In the past few days, the state health department has ordered testing of the water systems near the Gulf for oil contamination. These tests are being conducted because residents of southwestern Louisiana have complained about odors causing breathing problems, headaches, burning eyes and nausea.
Some of the fishermen hired by BP to clean up the gulf oil spill are becoming ill after working long hours near the contaminated waters, prompting Louisiana lawmaker to ask the federal government to open clinics in rural areas to treat them. The fishermen report severe headaches, dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing. Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) contacted Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, asking for the agency’s help in providing medical treatment, especially in Plaquemines Parish, a southern region where many fishermen live.
If you live near or know of someone who lives near the affected areas, protect yourself by following these steps:
- Close all windows and stay inside as much as possible
- Use air purifiers in any space where you spend a significant amount of time.
- If you spend a lot of time in a boat or car consider getting a portable air purifier.
- Wear a mask.
The fact of the matter is the oil spill in the Gulf is a horrible disaster that is going to affect the lives of millions. Not only is it going to kill all the of the wildlife in the area, it is also going to cause serious health problems for the people exposed. The full impact of the Gulf of Mexico deep water oil spill will not be known for many years, but there is no doubt that it will have a major impact on the health of our eco-systems and the surrounding population!