Health Risks from Oil Spill: "Some of the Most Toxic Chemicals that We Know" , "Every Place Can be Ground Zero", CDC Advises "Everyone" to Avoid Oil → Washingtons Blog
Health Risks from Oil Spill: "Some of the Most Toxic Chemicals that We Know" , "Every Place Can be Ground Zero", CDC Advises "Everyone" to Avoid Oil - Washingtons Blog

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Health Risks from Oil Spill: "Some of the Most Toxic Chemicals that We Know" , "Every Place Can be Ground Zero", CDC Advises "Everyone" to Avoid Oil

An "epidemiologist" is a scientist who studies diseases among groups of people.

So the following quote from Bloomberg caught my eye:

Shira Kramer, an epidemiologist who has conducted research for the petroleum industry on the health consequences of exposure to petroleum, said she is concerned that the risks are being downplayed.

“It’s completely scientifically dishonest to pooh-pooh the potential here when you are talking about some of the most toxic chemicals that we know,” said Kramer....

“When you talk about community exposure, you are talking about exposures in unpredictable ways and to subpopulations that may be more highly susceptible than others, such as those of reproductive age, people who are immuno-compromised, children or fetuses.

‘With the World Trade Center, there have been unpredictable adverse health effects to the populations that were exposed and not just the workers,” she said. “In this case, we have a soup of chemicals from the crude, chemicals from the dispersants and pollutants that were already in the water. Who can say how they will interact?”

Crude oil contains such powerful cancer-causing chemicals benzene, toluene, heavy metals and arsenic.

In addition, BP has poured millions of gallons of the highly-toxic dispersant Corexit into the Gulf. And see this.

Bloomberg also notes that the Centers for Disease Control has issued health warnings about the oil:

“Although the oil may contain some chemicals that could cause harm to an unborn baby under some conditions, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies,” the CDC said on its website.

While they suggest there is no threat, the CDC simultaneously advised “everyone, including pregnant women” to avoid spill-affected areas.

While we must keep the risk in perspective - and while this does not mean that Gulf coast residents will suffer mass illness due to the oil spill - we should not underestimate the risks either. As Bloomberg notes:

“Oil is a complex mixture containing substances like benzene, heavy metals, arsenic, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons -- all known to cause human health problems such as cancer, birth defects or miscarriages,” said Kenneth Olden, founding dean of New York’s CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, who is monitoring a panel on possible delayed effects. “The potential here is huge and we have to be diligent about protecting the public health and these workers.”

For the public at large, the threat is less clear because of the uncertainty about the degree of exposure, Lioy said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think the levels are high enough for concern,” he said. “But this is an ongoing event. Every day is Day One. Every place can be Ground Zero.”

Because hurricanes could spread the oil inland, it may indeed be true that almost every place on the Gulf Coast can be Ground Zero.


  1. I am becoming increasingly saddened that some humans will lie and do whatever for a job that pays money even though the job causes death to other humans. Very sick society if you ask me.
    Enslaved. Of course it is toxic, just like the natural gas extraction process.

  2. What do you think about reports of oil infused rain? Also, what do you think about the supposed Russian Ministry of Natural Resources report about the Eastern seaboard being destroyed by toxic rain from the oil, gasses such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide, and toxic dispersants being used?

  3. I am agnostic about the "raining oil" story. I haven't seen proof that this is not just oil on the road which is being spread by rain.

    Someone capturing rainwater above ground level would need to verify.

    As far as the article linked by Eutimes, I have not found to be a credible source.

  4. Just an FYI for the world. I am a doctor. Although I do not "like" admitting this but I must - frankly, we all live in a very "toxic" society and environment. You must ask yourself - where the trash you put in the trash can is going. Does it contain batteries or paint? Probably more than that. Also, what chemical plants are located near you? How do they dispose of waste or run-off. The truth would scare the pants off of everyone. Miami-Dade County in Florida pumps "treated" waste sewage water in the Ocean. A pipe ruptured this past weekend and sent 20 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ocean. I am not saying that this is "ok" but I would like people to wake up and stop pretending they live in a "clean" world because they do not. Perhaps this is the true wake-up call the world needs. Did I mention the natural arsenic issue in the water in Bangledesh? And the farm run-off (fertilizers, pest control, animal waste) into rivers and streams all over the USA and in other places. I could go on and on and on. As for the oil infused rain - it could come from a variety of sources. I am glad people seem to be paying more attention to their surroundings. It is not time to panic but it is time to wake up. People have been surviving while living in societies that try to kill them for awhile. Perhaps we all want to do better. Just a thought. Pay attention but also know, you yourself are surrounded by toxins everyday you get in your car so be smart but don't panic. Oil encased on everything will be bad but we are not there yet, so calm is the order of the day. Calmness and applied good sense and knowledge. Everyone starts cleaning up their individual act and the collective act will follow right behind. Did anyone get rid of a car lately? My family did.

  5. I agree with "Voices" about the degree of toxicity of our environment. For example, there was a recent study on children that correlated ADHD directly with measured levels of pesticide. Also, I have examined the issue of lead poisoning and believe children in the US in older buildings (and abroad!) are routinely exposed to unsafe levels.

    RE the Russian report. I tried tracking it down, but I could not find it. Nor could I find any official reference or scientific citation to it.

    Washington's blog is very careful with citations so I thought I would see if they had any more info than I...

    It is strange the report was paraphrased in the news article, but perhaps it is just more psuedo-news.

  6. I am worried about the evaporation and toxicity of the dispersant. The gulf is getting pretty hot which is good for degrading oil but bad for creating toxic rain. I hope they stop using all dispersants as the oil will degrade pretty well naturally because of the heat. Instead they should focus on enhancing the oxygen in the water in the Gulf as oxygen is likely the limiting factor which determines how fast the oil degrades. I would do that by temporarily limiting the use of fertilizers along the Mississippi so the water retains more oxygen via decreased algae and so there is a steady supply of fresh oxygen to the spill area. Some fertilizer is desired to better degrade the oil but the amount needs to be monitored and controlled depending on the oxygen levels. Oxygen could also be pumped in like a fish tank. Perhaps the New Orleans levee pumps could be changed a bit to allow them to be used to add oxygen to the water.

  7. Because petroleum based toxins are ubiquitous in our environment, avoidance and supplementing your natural detoxification enzymes are the only solution. Sulphur foods: garlic, onions, broccoli, etc., Vitamin C, B complex with extra folic acid are an inexpensive start. The goal is to manufacture more of the 3 basic detox enzymes: glutathione, S.O.D. & catalase. Herbs, such as Milk Thistle, contain the basic micro-nutrients that feed the biological pathways. Avoid alcohol.


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