Photo: The U.S. Army, Flickr, Creative Commons BY 2.0
Less dramatic than the fiery explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the multiple month-spanning underwater oil geyser that followed it are many of the BP Gulf spill's side effects. And oil-related sicknesses are undoubtedly among the thorniest -- many fishermen-turned cleanup workers have already been afflicted by close contact with oil and the chemical dispersents used to combat it. But there will probably be many more. As such, "Health Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill", a paper recently published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA), is advising physicians around the Gulf and beyond to learn to treat oil and dispersent-related sicknesses.From the report:
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico poses direct threats to human health from inhalation or dermal contact with the oil and dispersant chemicals, and indirect threats to seafood safety and mental health. Physicians should be familiar with health effects from oil spills to appropriately advise, diagnose, and treat patients who live and work along the Gulf Coast or wherever a major oil spill occurs.The paper is by Dr. Gina Solomon, an oil spill health expert whom I interviewed during my coverage of the Gulf spill in the beginning months of the disaster. At the time, she and the NRDC were lobbying hard to make sure that the fishermen were receiving proper protective gear (rubber boots, gloves, full-body suit, and a filtration mask should have been provided) when they were enlisted to work with the oil. At that point, they were hardly being given anything at all -- and as such, many workers ended up growing ill.
Furthermore, as some THers have pointed out, the chemical dispersants and evaporating oil were prone to be blown ashore all across the Gulf, potentially causing illness when inhaled by the nearby residents. So it's a good thing that Dr. Solomon has compiled this report in an effort to better acquaint doctors with the many adverse health effects that oil spills can bring about -- JAMA is the most widely-circulated medical journal in the world. I'm glad that the medical community has recognized the scope of the threat that the spill -- and those bound to occur in the future -- presents.