Oil spill could pose health threat11th May 2010
A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may eventually endanger human health, according to North American governments.
Though the oil slick has not yet drifted ashore, scientists say that it may eventually cause runny noses, headaches, nausea, poor air quality, contaminated water, and seafood that is dangerous to eat.
Jimmy Guidry, state health director of Louisiana, said that he and his colleagues did not know how long the spill would last or how much oil it would produce.
The leaked oil is due to an oil rig explosion, and is coming directly from a reservoir in the sea floor.
British Petroleum, the company responsible for the accident, which killed 11 workers, recently reported that it did not know how to stop the oil from emptying into the sea.
Because of the unpredictable nature of the spill, it has the potential to become the worst in the history of the world.
Greenpeace, the environmental group, recently issued an unconfirmed report that traces of the oil had been found in the southernmost point of Louisiana state.
Currently, at least 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day.
Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said that a foul stench had drifted over parts of southwestern Louisiana last week.
He said that the stench caused people to feel burning sensations in their eyes and nausea.
Robert Campo, a commercial fisherman, said that the smell was so rotten it gave him a headache.
Crude oil brings volatile organic compounds into the air.
The compounds react with nitrogen oxides in the air to produce ozone, making crude oil a powerful source of air pollution.
The US Coast Guard is setting fires to burn off oil on the surface of the water, which is producing acrid smoke.
Dave Bary, an EPA spokesman in Dallas, Texas, said that his organisation did not know which direction the oil would travel.
Jonathan Ward, an environmental toxicology professor at the University of Texas in Galveston, said that which country experienced the toxic effects of the spill would depend upon the wind.
Although people in New Orleans get their supplies from the Mississippi River, with a direct link to the Gulf, experts said that the water's strong southerly current would prevent the oil from contaminating municipal water supplies.
This week, experts began testing seafood for contamination.
Officials have ordered people to stop fishing from the Missisipi River and in much of eastern Florida.
Levine said that his department would watch for hydrocarbons or other contaminants in seafood, and ban it from being caught or sold if necessary.
LuAnn White, director of Tulane Universisty's Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, said that highly tainted seafood would smell bad, and give people indigestion.
Gina Solomon, an associate professor at the University of California-San Francisco medical school, said that workers near the oil spill should have plenty of protection.
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Title: Oil spill could pose health threat
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 14845
Date Added: 11th May 2010