Earlier this week, Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, requesting temporary health care clinics to serve volunteers and workers in Louisiana.
The clinics would be used to provide medical exams to workers who have come into contact with oil and monitor affects of the oil disaster in the gulf. He also sought the appointment of a health care coordinator to oversee the health care response. The letter read, in part:
“Many residents and volunteers are being exposed to hazardous materials on a daily basis, and some will have to travel hours to get treatment at the nearest health care facility. It is imperative that temporary health care clinics be established to provide basic health care services in this geographic area.”
Congressman Melancon also stated that BP should be responsible for all costs related to the recovery, including any additional health care services needed in southern Louisiana, writing that “It is the companies’ responsibility and theirs alone in light of their negligence in this situation.”
HealthDay News reported earlier this month that some people along the cost have already reported headaches, nausea and throat irritation.
Health risks to humans would be the result of pollution and contamination of the food chain. Those involved directly in the clean up of crude oil may face additional health hazards. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 resulted in 11,000 clean-up workers making 5,600 visits to health clinics for upper respiratory symptoms alone.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that crude oil
“…may contain various portions of straight and branched chain paraffins, cycloparaffins, and naphthenic, aromatic, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. In addition, crude oil contains trace amounts of sulfur containing chemicals such as sulfides, mercaptans, thiophenes, and other more complex sulfur compounds. Although the chemical composition of crude oil varies by source, crude oils and petroleum products share certain toxic characteristics.”
In addition to prolonged exposure to crude oil, workers and volunteers may also be faced with the dangers associated with the clean-up itself — heat, working in water and in swamps, wildlife, and heavy machinery.
The crisis is far from over. With crude oil still pouring into the Gulf, it is far too early to comprehend the long-term cost to human health. But one thing is clear — BP is the culprit and BP should cover the costs of clean-up, including health care costs.
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
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