home
RSS
June 17th, 2010
07:51 PM ET

Should you worry about burning the oil spill?

By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Senior Medical Producer

As cleanup workers burn off oil from BP’s ruined Deepwater Horizon well, the black clouds of smoke soaring skyward are carrying questions about health risks, along with a thick helping of soot, volatile gases and other toxic byproducts.

The most immediate risk is to cleanup workers or others in proximity to the burn, according to Dr. Phil Harber, head of the division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

However, depending on the eventual scope of the burn, and length of the cleanup effort, others on shore could be affected, says Harber. “People with asthma, or who are very young, or who have cardiac disease,  are much more likely to be sensitive the released pollutants.”

Federal officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Agency have issued a memorandum insisting on proper safety equipment and training for all cleanup workers. When reached by CNN, spokespeople for two companies helping with the effort – Global Industries, and Boots and Coots - would not say if workers were taking special precautions to protect against the smoke.

More than 12,600 workers are helping with the overall cleanup effort, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The black cloud is largely made up of small particles that can lodge deep in the lungs. It also contains gases such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, and volatile compounds called  polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which at high exposures are considered a trigger for cancer, says Harber.

Of course, because of the volatile compounds it gives off, the spilled oil poses some health risk, simply sitting on the surface. OSHA has been monitoring air in the main clean up area, and posting some results on its website. The Environmental Protection Agency also has air monitoring stations around the Gulf, with results posted on this website. According to data posted on June 15, the EPA says that air-quality levels for ozone and particulates on the Gulf coastline are no different from usual, for this time of year.

However, the gases swirling around the spill do seem to be having at least some health effect. Hospitals have reported several dozen cleanup workers who complained of symptoms including headaches, nausea and dizziness.

Long-term, the potential impact is unclear. John Howard, director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, told a congressional panel Wednesday, “We have very scant information, in general, about oil spills.”

With reporting from CNN intern Trisha Pasricha.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (1,167 Responses)
  1. CharlesGlalf

    canadian pharmacy online no script canadian pharmacy cialis 20mg

    June 18, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. DavidAdess

    buy viagra online with no prescription impotene drugs cialis cheapest online prices canadian pharmacy 247 overnight pharmacy canadian fastest place online to order clomid canadian pharmacy no prescription rx customer care canadian pharmacy viagra prices usa

    June 18, 2021 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. BrucePaumn

    cialis without a doctor's prescription cialis without prescription

    June 18, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. DavidAdess

    viagra without prescriptions ed medication cialis cheapest online prices is canadian health care mall legitimate canadian online pharmacies buy clomid for men canada pharmacy 24h rayhhealthcare online order medication online canadian pharmacy best generic viagra

    June 18, 2021 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Donaldfug

    sky pharmacy online

    June 18, 2021 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Donaldfug

    sky pharmacy review

    June 19, 2021 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. CharlesGlalf

    canadian pharmacy cialis canada pharmacy 24 hour drug store

    June 19, 2021 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RobertTrafe

    healthy man viagra pills

    June 19, 2021 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CharlesGlalf

    sky pharmacy online drugstore canadian pharmacy

    June 19, 2021 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Douglasovefs

    nizagara from india

    June 19, 2021 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. DavidAdess

    viagra online no prescription best ed medications online cheapest cialis rayh health care viagra canadian pharmacy stock buy clomid express shipping canadian pharmacy without prescription pacific care pharmacy vanuatu canada pharmacy 24h best site to buy viagra online

    June 19, 2021 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Douglasovefs

    buying nizagara on line

    June 19, 2021 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. BrucePaumn

    cialis no prescription needed cialis no prescription montreal

    June 19, 2021 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. DavidAdess

    viagra without prescriptions drugs for erectile dysfunction cialis cheapest lowest price usa canadian health and care mall reviews canadian online pharmacies clomid for men for sale no script canadian pharmacy pacific care pharmacy port vila vanuatu northwest pharmacy canada viagra price list

    June 19, 2021 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RaymondElupt

    sky pharmacy reviews

    June 19, 2021 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RaymondElupt

    sky pharmacy wellbutrin

    June 19, 2021 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Leave a Reply to combigan


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.