40% Of Residents Exposed To BP Gulf Oil Spill Suffer From Respitory Problems And Skin Lesions

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Columbia University reports a survey of Gulf Coast residents exposed to the BP Gulf Oil Spill are suffering from a wide range of problems including a shocking 40% who report either respiratory or skin problems.

The survey, conducted by telephone in July after the Deepwater Horizon well was capped, found evidence of significant and potentially lasting impact of the disaster on the health, mental health, and economic fortunes of residents and their children and on the way they live their everyday lives. The findings have implications for health and economic policies going forward.

Survey Findings

Among the key survey findings:

  • Over 40% of adults living within ten miles of the coast said they have experienced direct exposure to the oil spill or clean-up effort. Within this group, nearly 40% reported physical symptoms of skin irritations and respiratory problems, which they attributed to the oil spill. This is where the idea of oil filtration comes into play. As the oil-contaminated the water, this made the levels quite high, therefore possibly resulting in people having health issues. With the use of a filtering system, this could potentially resolve the issue. It may be worth checking out sites like MT Mechelec to get a better understanding of the benefits this could have on oil and water contamination.

  • Over one-third of parents report that their children have experienced either physical symptoms or mental health distress as a consequence of the oil spill.
  • One in five households report a drop in income since the oil spill, and 8% report job loss. These losses were most likely to hit those who were already economically vulnerable: households with incomes under $25,000 a year.
  • More than one-quarter (26.6%) of coastal residents said they thought they might have to move away from the Gulf Coast. Among those earning less then $25,000, the figure was 36.3%. Children whose parents think they may move are almost three times more likely to have mental health distress than are children whose parents do not expect to move.
  • More than 70% of parents report children spending less time swimming, boating and playing in the sand; 21% say their kids are spending less overall time playing outdoors.
  • Coastal residents had more favorable assessments and trust in their local and state officials and in the U.S. Coast Guard than they did in BP or other federal agencies.
  • Slightly over half of all coastal residents felt that BP’s response was “poor,” and 41.3% said that the President’s response to the oil spill was poor.

“Over the last few days we are seeing an effort by officials who are suggesting that, as the oil is less visible on the surface, the ‘crisis is over.’ Clearly, this is far from the case,” says Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCPD) at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and president of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF). “As shown by our survey, done after the well was capped, there is a significant and persistent public health crisis underscored by the large number of children with medical and psychological problems related to the oil disaster. These concerns will need to be assessed and managed in these coastal communities where there are few or no pediatricians and vastly insufficient mental health professional capacity.”

The survey found a dramatic relationship between economic vulnerability and health effects. Adults with household incomes under $25,000 were by far the most likely to report physical and mental health effects for themselves and also among their children. “Much the way Hurricane Katrina had its greatest effect on those with the least, the oil spill is also having a greater impact on those coastal residents who are economically vulnerable, says David Abramson, PhD, MPH, director of Research at NCDP and assistant professor of clinical sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School. “In an area still recovering from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill represents a significant test of a population’s resiliency.”

Dr. Redlener, a pediatrician and professor at the Mailman School, outlined a number of implications for policymakers and others: “Guidelines need to be developed, with active participation of relevant federal agencies, with respect to the short- and long-term health risks of remaining in affected communities. This should include recommendations, based on known science, on when families would be advised to move out of the community entirely.” He also believes BP should provide funds to state and local agencies involved with providing assessment and care to affected families. “Children are particularly susceptible to the consequences of this disaster and need to have special resources focused on their needs.”

A Riki Ott, a well respected marine toxicologist who has recently stated that the conditions along the Gulf coast are so bad that “We need to start talking about who’s going to pay for evacuations”, first reported the break out of skin lesions caused by the BP Spill on the Huffington Post back in May.

When Ryan Heffernan, a volunteer with Emerald Coastkeeper, noticed a bag of oily debris floating off in Santa Rosa Sound, she ran up to BP’s HazMat-trained workers to ask if they would retrieve it.

“No, ma’am,” one replied politely. “We can’t go in the ocean. It’s contaminated.”

Ryan waded in and retrieved the bag. That was Wednesday, June 23, the first day visible oil hit Pensacola Beach. Ryan had been swimming off the beach the day before, as she said, “to get in my last swim before the oil hit.” The trouble is that not all of the oil coming ashore is visible. Dispersed oil – tiny bubbles of oil encased in chemical dispersants – are in the water column. On Thursday Ryan was treated at a local doctor’s office for skin rash on her legs.

Categories: BP GULF OIL SPILL

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