Following the April 20th BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there has been growing concern over the health risks posed to cleanup workers, as well as the potential long-term effects to Gulf Coast residents and marine life. As of June 24th, 425 oil exposure calls have been placed to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. These calls are characterized by someone being exposed to oil, dispersant, food contamination, or any other associated toxins. A Fox News report states that of the 100+ oil-spill illnesses reported in Louisiana, 74 of them concerned clean-up workers hired by BP.
To support relief efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is collecting samples and monitoring air, water, and beach conditions to determine potential health risks to the public and the environment. Currently, air quality levels for ozone and particulates are normal for the summer months in the Gulf. However, the EPA has observed some odor-causing pollutants associated with oil at low levels in the Gulf Coast region. These toxins can cause short-term effects such as headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation, or even nausea. As oil and toxic fumes from burning oil make their way toward the shore, experts are unsure of the potential damage that may ensue for residents and cleanup workers.