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Crude Oil Toxicity

August 16, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 33

The article “Health Risks in the Gulf” states: “Public health experts and federal agencies … have limited resources and little data on the long-term health effects of oil spills” (C&EN, July 5, page 21).

We have been handling crude oil and petroleum products in this country for more than 100 years. There have been numerous oil spills over these years. Hundreds of thousands of people who work in crude oil production and transportation have been exposed to the crude, many of them for years. A huge collection of data exists on the health effects of exposure to crude oil, both short- and long-term.

The C&EN article makes it appear that there are no existing data and that numerous agencies are gearing up to conduct some expensive studies, which do not appear to be necessary. Why not just do a good literature search?

I agree with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention proposal to develop a roster of cleanup workers for whom baseline health data would be obtained. These workers should then be monitored for any adverse health effects. If I were managing the cleanup for the government and/or BP, I would insist on data of this nature to protect from fraudulent health claims at a later date.

Credit: Newscom

The picture on page 22 [reprinted above] is telling; government-mandated beachwear on the right and civilian beachwear on the left.

Robert Teasley
Tulsa, Okla.


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