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. JosephNam

    black cialis

    March 23, 2021 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. alphabets26.com

    Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam
    feedback? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can advise?

    I get so much lately it's driving me crazy so any assistance is very much

    March 23, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ShaneCag

    generic cialis canada best viagra prices 100mg

    March 23, 2021 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. EdwardSwogy

    canadian pharmacy no prescription

    March 23, 2021 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ShaneCag

    canadian pills store how to buy viagra online

    March 23, 2021 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ThomasBot

    canadian pharmacy cialis 20mg

    March 24, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JosephNam

    cialis black 800mg reviews

    March 24, 2021 at 03:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. EdwardSwogy


    March 24, 2021 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ShaneCag

    canada pharmacy buy viagra online uk

    March 24, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ShaneCag

    canadian pharmacy no prescription viagra ca

    March 24, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ThomasBot

    canadian pharmacy 24h

    March 24, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JosephNam


    March 24, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. fairspin казино зеркало

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long
    as I provide credit and sources back to your weblog? My website
    is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would really benefit from some of
    the information you provide here. Please let
    me know if this alright with you. Thanks a lot!

    March 24, 2021 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ShaneCag

    cialis cheap canada generic viagra pills

    March 25, 2021 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ShaneCag

    ritalin canada comprar viagra

    March 25, 2021 at 05:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. JosephNam

    Click Here

    March 25, 2021 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ThomasBot

    canadian pharmacy express

    March 25, 2021 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JosephNam

    cialis black

    March 25, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ufabet

    การที่จะใช้สเต็ปนี้นั้น เราต้องดูห้องหน้าล็อบบี้ก่อนว่า ณ ห้องนั้นๆมีเค้าไพ่ลักษณะแบบใด
    แล้วก็มีเค้าไพ่ที่มีลักษณะแบบคู่หรือเปล่า รวมทั้งจะใช้ได้ตอนไหนที่เค้าไพ่สเต็ปนี้เริ่มเผยตัวออกมา
    เราจะมายกแบบอย่างกันว่าควรจะใช้เคล็ดวิธีนี้ยังไง สเต็ป3-3 ขั้นแรกเลยเป็นสังเกตที่เค้าไพ่ล่าสุดว่ามีเค้าไพ่ที่ออกมาเรียงกัน3ไม้หรือเปล่า หากออกมาในลักษณะนี้ จัดเตรียมวางเครดิตตัดสวนได้เลย อย่างเช่น สีแดงออกมาแล้ว3ไม้ ไม้ที่4-6ตัดสวนด้วยอีกฝั่งได้เลย
    ซึ่งมันก็คือ สีน้ำเงิน

    March 25, 2021 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. ShaneCag

    buy canadian cialis generic viagra american express

    March 25, 2021 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. ShaneCag

    canada pharmacies online prescriptions healthy man viagra

    March 25, 2021 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ThomasBot

    cialis canadian pharmacy

    March 26, 2021 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. 123movies

    Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of
    spam remarks? If so how do you protect against it, any
    plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately
    it's driving me insane so any assistance is very much appreciated.

    March 26, 2021 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. JosephNam

    cialis black 800mg pills

    March 26, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ShaneCag

    canadian pharmacy cialis 20mg best generic viagra pharmacies

    March 26, 2021 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ShaneCag

    sky pharmacy canada where can i buy cheap viagra

    March 26, 2021 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ThomasBot

    canadian pharmacy

    March 27, 2021 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Marvintoing

    healthy man viagra scam

    March 27, 2021 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort zimax 100 mg maxifort online

    March 27, 2021 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 123movies

    Excellent way of describing, and nice article to get information on the topic of my presentation subject,
    which i am going to present in school.

    March 27, 2021 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort 50 mg maxifort zimax mexico

    March 27, 2021 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. KennethPoelm

    cheap brand name viagra online Canadian Health Care Cost buy real viagra online

    March 27, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. KennethPoelm

    real viagra for sale online 178 Canadian Health Care usa viagra prices

    March 27, 2021 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. EdwardSwogy

    canadian online pharmacy

    March 28, 2021 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort 50 mg maxifort

    March 28, 2021 at 01:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. cellgevity max international

    Useful information. Lucky me I discovered your site unintentionally, and I'm shocked why this coincidence did not took place in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

    Visit my web-site cellgevity max international

    March 28, 2021 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. KennethPoelm

    pfizer viagra online Legitimate Canadian Mail Order Pharmacies best non prescription viagra

    March 28, 2021 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort zimax 100 mg maxifort zimax 100 mg

    March 28, 2021 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. KennethPoelm

    buy viagra online without prescription Home Page best generic viagra

    March 28, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort online maxifort

    March 28, 2021 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Where To Buy Dr Marty's Dog Food

    My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different web
    address and thought I should check things out. I like what I
    see so now i am following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page again.

    March 28, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. unblocked

    I've been browsing on-line more than 3 hours today, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours.

    It's lovely value sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters
    and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet can be much
    more helpful than ever before.

    March 28, 2021 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Marvintoing

    healthy men viagra

    March 29, 2021 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. EdwardSwogy


    March 29, 2021 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. CharlesGlalf

    maxifort online buy maxifort

    March 29, 2021 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. KennethPoelm

    free viagras Legitimate Canadian Mail Order Pharmacies cheap viagra 100mg to buy in canada

    March 29, 2021 at 04:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. CharlesGlalf

    buy maxifort maxifort 50 mg

    March 29, 2021 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. KennethPoelm

    40 viagra 99 dollars Canadian Health Care Cost viagra 100mg price

    March 29, 2021 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. 파워볼카지노사이트

    Hi i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this paragraph i thought i could also create comment due to this brilliant article.

    my webpage: 파워볼카지노사이트

    March 29, 2021 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. EdwardSwogy


    March 29, 2021 at 16:24 | 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 CharlesEloff


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.