Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oil Cleanup Dirty, Not Toxic, For Workers

Oil Cleanup Dirty, Not Toxic, For Workers
About 20,000 workers are toiling long hours to clean up all that oil in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a dirty, exhausting job. But are these workers endangering their health by spending all that time around crude oil and chemical dispersants?
Sometimes they are, says Damon Dietrich, an emergency room doctor at West Jefferson Medical Center, just south of New Orleans.
The hospital has seen 11 cleanup workers in the past few weeks with symptoms such as dizziness, headache and nausea, Dietrich says.
"We've got to believe that it's either the burning of the oil, working around the oil spill or the dispersants that are causing their symptoms," he says.
Most cleanup workers, though, haven't had problems. And air quality measurements from around the gulf suggest that pollutant levels are actually quite low.
So at the moment, the greatest health risk is probably not chemicals, says Joseph Hughes, Jr., from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' training unit for workers with hazardous materials. It's heat stress from people working "incredible hours" in temperatures hovering around 95 degrees.
Experience with the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska may explain why oil isn't causing more health problems. Scientists realized that even though oil contains highly toxic chemicals like carcinogen benzene, they usually dissipate within a couple of days of being exposed to air and light.
And it's reassuring that a federal study of 11,000 workers involved in the Exxon Valdez cleanup did not find many health problems.
But things might be different in this spill because the gulf is so much warmer, and lacks the wind and wave patterns of Alaska, says Bob Emery of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
Higher temperatures, he says, could release toxins that would otherwise stay locked inside of tarballs. Also, nearly a million gallons of chemical dispersant have been used to break up the oil in the Gulf — far more than was used in Alaska.
By: Abdulaziz Aljasser

1 comment:

  1. President Obama the crude oil is toxic, and anyone who cleans the oily Gulf beaches needs to know the danger. Don't allow the workers to become BP's Collateral Damaged, like Exxon did in 1989.

    Article from Las Vegas Review Journal:

    The workers who are cleaning up the oil in the Gulf need to be aware of the chemicals that will be used. I am one of the 11,000+ cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS), who is suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup, without compensation from Exxon.

    My name is Merle Savage; a female general foreman during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) beach cleanup in 1989, which turned into 21 years of extensive health deterioration for me, and many other workers. Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches. She also informed me that Exxon's medical records and the reports that surfaced in litigation by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions.

    Exxon developed the toxic spraying; OSHA, the Coast Guard, and the state of Alaska authorized the procedure; VECO and other Exxon contractors implemented it. Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air -- the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions and central nervous system problems, along with other massive health issues. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease.

    My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many -- and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of us – Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.