As oil continues to gush out in the Gulf of Mexico, a huge concern among scientists, doctors and the general public is how this catastrophic oil spill will effect the short term as well as long term health of people who are helping to quell the BP oil spill, are cleaning up the oil spill, or are living along the Gulf coastlines affected by the spill. The vapors from the petroleum can cause many direct health consequences. The Deepwater Horizon explosion already has taken the lives of 11 people who were on the doomed oil rig. The devastating oil spill resulting from the explosion is damaging the coast of Louisiana and other Gulf States with terrible ecological and economic effects. And now, we are just beginning to see the effects that the BP oil spill will have on human health.
Newspapers are reporting that in Louisiana residents have already been complaining about gasoline-type odors and feelings of nausea, dizziness, trouble breathing, coughing, and irritation to their eyes and throat. In the Gulf of Mexico waters Louisiana fisherman who are now working on the cleanup have been hospitalized with the same types of symptoms. What is the cause of people feeling sick? The main suspect is the resulting toxic fumes of the oil spill.
Oil is a compound made from various hydrocarbons, some of which are volatile organic compounds. These volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene are very dangerous to human, animal, and plant life. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen to humans. Long time exposure to high-level dosages of benzene can cause death. It is a known fact that if a person breathes in too many of the chemical contaminants of oil, he or she will experience headaches, dizziness, or vomiting.
It is dubious to think that the maritime workers or volunteers on the supply boats, tow boats, work boats, jack up barges, tug boats, dredges, crew boats, jack up rigs, and fishing boats, all involved in the cleanup, are not going to be affected by the environment in which they are working. It has been written that in the case of the Gulf oil spill, the levels of benzene are supposedly not extremely high with shorter exposure time for the cleanup workers. But who is to say what is safe when a maritime workers’ exposure has certainly been enough to cause him to experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, coughing and trouble breathing. Inhalation of toxic oil vapors or other aerosolized oil compound particles from wind-blown waves can cause these side effects. The longer the oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and longer the clean up effort, the more exposure there will be to toxic fumes for all maritime workers. Likewise, onshore the elderly, children, and folks with respiratory diseases will be more susceptible to adverse side effects from inhaling the oil vapors. In addition, pregnant women should be aware that the volatile chemicals in oil have been linked to miscarriage, preterm birth, and low birth weight. They should definitely limit their exposure to toxic fumes.
The method of disposing of some of the oil on the surface of the water by burning the oil is another cause for more toxic oil fumes in the air. When oil is burned it releases particulate matter. When inhaled, this particle pollution is harmful to the lungs. Because of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA is constantly monitoring air quality in the region. You can go to their AirNow website to find the results in your area. Their maps and charts are updated hourly to show the most recent air quality conditions.
If the oil vapors aren’t bad enough, the dispersant to break up the oil that BP has been spraying from planes and boats in copious amounts is also potentially toxic to humans. While using a dispersant spray helps to prevent a lot of the oil from reaching beaches and marshes, it still may be doing long term damage both to aquatic and human life.
BP's choice of an oil dispersant is one of the solvents that is made under the name, Corexit. The EPA pre-approved two versions, Corexit 9500 and Corexit(R) EC9527A, for use in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill emergency. Because trade secrets keep the exact ingredients from being revealed, there have been no toxicity studies performed on the compounds. Why has BP chosen to use Corexit? It definitely is not less toxic than other possible dispersants. It is especially unfortunate considering there are safer and more efficient alternatives that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Out of the 18 dispersants approved by the EPA, 12 were found to be more effective on Southern Louisiana crude than Corexit. In Gulf of Mexico Corexit was found to be only 56 and 63 percent effective on the type of crude oil gushing from the BP damaged well. On the EPA approved list of dispersants, 2 of the 12 mentioned were rated at 100 percent effective on the same type of oil. In fact, out of the 12 dispersants mentioned, their toxicity levels were equal and in some cases up to 20 times less toxic than Corexit.
Corexit has already been utilized before with negative consequences. Corexit 9527 was used in the Exxon Valdez spill. This earlier form of Corexit used in the Exxon Valdez cleanup reportedly caused workers to develop nervous system, blood, and respiratory disorders. History is repeating itself as maritime workers are ending up in local emergency rooms after becoming sick while working in the midst of the oil spill. Gary Stubblefield who won a settlement from Exxon and is still struggling with respiratory problems caused by the Valdez oil spill says it makes him sick to see what is happening in the Gulf right now.
As the amount of gushing oil increases and BP continues spraying more dispersant toxins into the Gulf of Mexico, the seamen in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida will be facing potential health hazards. Maritime workers on floating vessels who get sick are protected by the Maritime Jones Act and should seek the advice and services of an experienced Maritime Admiralty Offshore Accident Attorney. The Jones Act applies to deck hands, engineers, first mates, second mates, third mates, relief captains, captains, roustabouts, roughnecks, drillers, pilots, anchor tenders, tanker man, and basically all persons that are involved in the maritime offshore industry. The Jones Act applies to the fishing, fishery, canning, shrimping, oil field, dredging, barge, tugboat, towboat, crew boat, supply boat, and other maritime offshore industries. For more information about the Jones Act go here http://jonesactquestions.com/general-description-of-jones-act.html.
If you are a seaman working on supply boats, tow boats, work boats, jack up barges, tug boats, dredges, crew boats, jack up rigs or fishing boats and have health complications as a result of the BP oil spill please contact us to speak with a Maritime Admiralty Offshore Accident Lawyer.