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 (1,260 Responses)
  1. MatthewWar


    April 26, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Richardbak

    onlinepharmacy canadian pharmacy no prescription canadian pharmacy supremesuppliersindia.com cialis sample pack canadian pharmacy mall supreme suppliers canada pharmacy without prescription Canadian Health Care Cost generic ed pills tretinoin ebay

    April 26, 2021 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ThomasBot

    canadian pharmacy 24hr

    April 26, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. PrestonAbede

    cheap viagra uk next day delivery supremesuppliersindia.com purchase viagra online from canada

    April 26, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MatthewWar


    April 26, 2021 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. PrestonAbede

    viagra coupon supreme suppliers pfizer viagra 100mg price

    April 26, 2021 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JosephNam

    canadian 24 hour pharmacy

    April 26, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. medicine for lupus plaquenil

    why erectile dysfunction https://plaquenilx.com/ erectile tissue in the nose

    April 26, 2021 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Thomashig

    canada pharmacy 24h

    April 27, 2021 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Richardbak

    supremesuppliers canadian pharmacy without prescritption canadian pharmacy cialis 5 mg supreme suppliers india viagra viagra vs cialis vs levitra samples canadian pharm support group supremesuppliers 1650 canadian pharmacy online no script Canadian Health Care Pharmacy Canadian ED Medications tretinoin gel .1 for sale

    April 27, 2021 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort zimax 100mg buy maxifort

    April 27, 2021 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Thomashig

    sky pharmacy canada

    April 27, 2021 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Richardbak

    canadian pharmacies canadian pharmacy cialis canadian pharmacy online supreme suppliers viagra cialis samples overnight canadian pharmacy no prescription supreme suppliersmumbaiindia canadian pharmacies no script Canadian Health Mall Complaints generic ed drugs cheapest retin a

    April 27, 2021 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort zimax 100mg maxifort 50 mg

    April 27, 2021 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BrucePaumn

    cialis no prescription needed prescription free cialis

    April 27, 2021 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MatthewWar

    nizagara 100

    April 27, 2021 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. PrestonAbede

    where can u buy black rock like viagra supreme suppliersmumbaiindia viagra 100mg canada

    April 27, 2021 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. BrucePaumn

    cheap cialis no prescription price on cialis 5mg no prescription

    April 27, 2021 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. MatthewWar

    nizagara vs viagra

    April 27, 2021 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. PrestonAbede

    viagra without a prescription online pharmacy secure tabs viagra

    April 27, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Richardbak

    supreme suppliers viagra canadian pharmacy canadian pharmacies online supremesuppliers viagra and cialis samples from pfizer canadian pharmacies mail order supremesuppliers canadian pharmacy no prescription Canadian Health Care Cost generic name for ED drugs buy tretinoid cream online

    April 27, 2021 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Thomashig


    April 27, 2021 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort online maxifort 50 mg

    April 27, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Thomashig

    canadian pharmacy cialis

    April 27, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Richardbak

    order cipro online supreme suppliers canadian pharmacies 24 hour canadian pharmacy supreme suppliersmumbaiindia samples of viagra and cialis canadian pharm support group supreme suppliers india viagra my canadian pharmacy no script Canadian Health Care buy ed drugs online tretinoin without a prescription canada

    April 27, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort online maxifort online

    April 27, 2021 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ThomasBot

    northwestern canada drugs

    April 27, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. BrucePaumn

    buy cialis without prescription cialis no prescription needed

    April 27, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. MatthewWar

    nizagara tablets for sale

    April 27, 2021 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. PrestonAbede

    generic super viagra canada pharmacy online viagra pfizer online

    April 27, 2021 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. BrucePaumn

    cialis no prescription cialis without prescription

    April 27, 2021 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. MatthewWar

    nizagara tablets

    April 27, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. PrestonAbede

    cialis cost vs viagra cost supreme suppliersmumbaiindia kwikmed coupon viagra

    April 28, 2021 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Thomashig

    canadian pharmacy cialis 20mg

    April 28, 2021 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Richardbak

    supreme suppliersmumbaiindia canadian pharmacy sky pharmacy canada online pharmacy cialis sample pack northwest pharmacy canada canadian pharmacy no prescription canada pharmacy online Canadian Health Care Mall Pharmacy generic impotence drugs where to purchase tretinoin

    April 28, 2021 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Richardbak

    suhagra supreme suppliers canadianpharmacy.com canadian pharmacy clonidine canada pharmacy online cialis canada free sample northwest pharmacy canada canadian pharmacy cialis canada pharmacy no prescription My Canadian pharcharmy Online ED medication all day chemist retin a

    April 28, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Thomashig

    online pharmacy

    April 28, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. ThomasBot

    online pharmacies canada

    April 28, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. PrestonAbede

    viagra from europe online pharmacy wholesale viagra 100mg

    April 28, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. BrucePaumn

    cialis without prescription generic cialis no prescription

    April 28, 2021 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. PrestonAbede

    commander viagra supremesuppliersindia.com lowest price viagra 100mg

    April 28, 2021 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Richardbak

    onlinepharmacy canadian pharmacies that accept paypal north american pharmacy supreme suppliers mumbai 400 058 india cialis sample northwestern canada drugs supreme suppliers mumbai india canadian non prescription pharmacy canadian health and care mall cheap erectile dysfunction medication retin a cream to buy

    April 28, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Thomashig

    sky pharmacy

    April 28, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Thomashig


    April 28, 2021 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Richardbak

    online pharmacy canadian pharmacies online pharmacy canada order cipro online supreme suppliers get free cialis samples canadian pharm support group supremesuppliersmumbai.com canadian online pharmacies Home Page Canadian ED Medications retin a no prescription

    April 28, 2021 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. ThomasBot

    blue mountain pharmacy canada

    April 29, 2021 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. chloroquine generic

    chloroquine tablet https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chlorodine

    April 29, 2021 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. MatthewWar

    buy nizagara in australia

    April 29, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. MatthewWar

    acheter nizagara

    April 29, 2021 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. PrestonAbede

    viagra online pharmacy reviews online pharmacy professional viagra reviews

    April 29, 2021 at 09:17 | 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 25 26

Leave a Reply to Georgetta Lammey


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.

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.