What effect does exposure to vapors and other oil spill-related hazards in the Gulf of Mexico have on those with asthma and other respiratory allergies? I’ve collected some of the current responses to these issues, but we want to hear from you. If you live or work in the gulf, or feel your allergies or health have been affected by the oil spill, please share your comments in the ‘Leave a Reply’ area below.
Long-term effects of the BP spill are not yet known, but we do know that, while fumes and irritants are not allergens, they can trigger an allergic rhinitis and asthma reactions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting health hazard evaluations and surveillance to track symptoms indluding worsening of asthma, cough, chest pain, eye irritation, nausea, and headache.
NIOSH has listed the following potential hazards in its Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill guidance for workers: benzene, chemical dispersants and other chemical hazards, fatigue, fuel oil, heat stress, hurricanes, mosquitoes, poisonous plants, respiratory protection, snakes, stinging insects, stress, and sun exposure.
ABC news reports that over a million gallons of chemical dispersants have been used in the cleanup. Long-term affects of these dispersants on health are not yet known. In addition to the obvious dangers of chemical irritants and pollutants, other allergens discussed below threaten outdoor workers.
Poisonous plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac not only cause severe allergic reactions in many by direct contact, but inhaling smoke from burning brush piles containing these plants can cause severe allergic respiratory reactions. Urushiol from these plants can remain active on the surface of tools and other objects for up to 5 years.
Bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants pose an additional threat to workers involved in the cleanup. Their stings can result in severe allergic reactions that require immediate medical care and may cause death.
Allergy to the sun can be a threat for outdoor workers, in addition to the more common threats of sunburn and skin cancers. Mayo Clinic describes four types of sun allergy: polymorphic light eruption, actinic prurigo, chronic actinic dermatitis, and solar urticaria.
Chemical Dispersants (ABC News)
Oil spill related health issues (Skin and Allergy News)
Respiratory effects (Fox News)
Health Surveillance Oil Spill (Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Response (NIOSH)
Hazard Information (NIOSH)
Sun Allergy (Mayo Clinic)