The impact of oil exposure to human health is among the main concerns brought about following the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Safety of seafood from the gulf first emerged after barrels of oil spread to several states within the gulf area. Next, people became concerned about the health safety of those who are helping with the cleanup. And of course, the public were concerned about their safety.
As the disaster came in the summer season, wherein a lot of people are going to the beaches for a swim, the possibility to get exposed to the oil that leaked not far from impossible. Understandably, people needed to know the status of the water in the gulf. And more importantly, they must know what to do, in case it happens.
The hazardous substances of oil can affect a person in three different ways breathing, swallowing and touching.
Inhaling oil-contaminated air can cause various levels of negative effects from person to person. Someone who has considerably good health can tolerate a certain amount of breathed air and simply need to go to an area for a fresher air, while somebody with preexisting condition, suffering from asthma, or any other lung diseases may immediately suffer shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness. At such the point, it is best to seek medical attention.
Foul smell of oil chemicals can also cause people to become sick. Most people can experience irritation in the eyes, nose, throat and skin. Particulate matters from burning oil can pose greater effect. And again, people having lung problems are the ones most affected. Instead of going out and trying to figure out what's burning in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, such people must stay indoors and turn on air conditioners to reuse indoor air instead of letting the contaminated air fill the lungs.
Dangerous chemicals from the oil spill have the most adverse impact on the marine animals, and ingesting contaminated seafood is actually allowing those chemicals to get into the blood stream. At this time, it is imperative not to eat seafood harvested from the area. In the mean time, the Department of Commerce′s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are constantly monitoring the oil spill and its potential impact on the safety of seafood. FDA, on the other hand, has put seafood processing facilities to further ensure health safety of the public. As prevention, waters in the area are closed for fishing.
Swimming in the contaminated area exposes anyone to swallowing oil. In such a case, he or she must not try to vomit it or try purging forcibly, as this may get oil into the lungs. Swallowing small amount, maybe less than a cup of coffee, will cause upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea, but is unlikely to have long-lasting health effects.
Dermal exposure to oil is less likely to affect many people, as tar balls are visual in the shore. Further, brief contact with small amount of oil will do no harm. Om case of contact, thorough washing with water and soap would be enough to prevent further dangers. Other cleaning agents sold in auto parts stores, cleaning paste for the hands, baby oil and petroleum jelly should also do. If, in case, oil chemicals got in the eyes, flush them with clean water for fifteen minutes. Should there be irritation, seek medical attention.
Who are most at risk?
However, greater hazard is posed to those who are directly dealing with the oil spill. Source control workers, workers in vessels involved and not involved in burning, equipment decontamination workers, wildlife cleanup workers, and waste stream workers are potentially exposed to chemicals such as benzene, VOCS, oil mist, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, as well as diesel fumes. If rashes or hard to wash off dark sticky spots indicates that the person need medical attention.
Children, elderly people, and those with preexisting conditions are the other groups of people that might suffer adverse effects. However, that can be avoided if parents and or nursing homes nurse them responsibly. And if the worse thing happens, taking them to hospitals to receive necessary medical care is the single best thing to do. Professionals in nursing scrubs and medical lab coats will be readily available to answer for their needs and take good care of them.