Oil Spill Health Overview in Second Life

Last week I gave a small presentation in Second Life on the health issues associated with the Gulf oil spill.

SL10: Oil Spill - Netroots Nation & Virtually Speaking

Delia Lake co-presented on the ecological issues of the oil spill, and Widget Whiteberry hosted.

SL10: Oil Spill - Netroots Nation & Virtually Speaking

Delia built a simulation of the coastal water and wildlife issues.

SL10: Oil Spill - Netroots Nation & Virtually Speaking

I shared the slides and presentation notes with the folk in Second Life, and wanted to share them here as well.

Here is the information from the notecard given to the audience in Second Life. Much of this includes snippets from the sources listed. For complete information, please go to the original source.

* Why? Background – After Deepwater

May 25, 2010

“On May 25, 2010, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary David Michaels issues a memo to Admiral T. W. Allen of the US Coast Guard on the topic of OSHA’s serious concerns for worker safety and health in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response. OSHA requested the assistance of Admiral Allen in “communicating the concerns to BP.” OSHA further asked that Admiral Allen “stress to BP that their failure to address the issues in the memo raises serious concerns about the safety and health of the workers involved in the cleanup.”
BP has continued to fail to provide adequate protective gear and respirators to fishermen working in close proximity to the spilled crude oil and dispersants. The workers are afraid to complain, for fear they will loose their cleanup jobs, their only source of livelihood. BP has threatened to fire fishermen attempting to utilize respirators provided by LEAN, LMRK and other organizations.”

Louisiana Environmental Action Network: Protecting the Health of Fishermen Performing Cleanup Activities

May 28, 2010

“Cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico were briefly halted Wednesday after four workers in three separate vessels became sick. Their symptoms included nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, headaches and shortness of breath.”

“They say we don’t need respirators,” one fisherman said, shaking his head. “I don’t know.”
SF Gate: Thin Green Line: Oil spill cleanup workers falling sick

May 30, 2010

“As of Saturday afternoon, May 29th, ten oil spill clean-up workers had been admitted to West Jefferson Medical Center (WJMC) in Marrero, Louisiana. All but two have been hospitalized suffering from chest pains, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.”
But the thought was, said [hospital spokesperson Taslin Alonzo], that symptoms were caused by some kind of chemical irritant. When asked if the hospital tested incoming cases like these for evidence of chemical exposure, Alonzo told me that it doesn’t. “We just treat the symptoms,” she said.

“No respiratory protection was issued, said [Coast Guard Captain Meredith Austin, Unified Command Deputy Incident Commander in Houma, LA] “because air ratings were taken and there were no values found to be at an unsafe level, prior to us sending them in there.”

Science Blogs: The Pump Handle: “This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t stop this well,” – BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, May 29, 2010: More oil-spill responders hospitalized and exposure information gaps persist (Elizabeth Grossman).

June 1, 2010

Louisiana Environmental Action Network: BP Tells Fishermen Working On The Oil Spill That They Will Be Fired For Wearing A Respirator

June 2, 2010

Most frequently reported symptoms: dizziness, headache and nausea; heat stress.

“And it’s reassuring that a federal study of 11,000 workers involved in the Exxon Valdez cleanup did not find many health problems.”
“Higher temperatures, he says, could release toxins that would otherwise stay locked inside of tarballs. Also, nearly a million gallons of chemical dispersant have been used to break up the oil in the Gulf — far more than was used in Alaska.”

NPR: SHOTS: Oil Cleanup Dirty, Not Toxic, For Workers

July 8, 2010

SF Gate: Thin Green Line: Sources: BP threatens to fire cleanup workers who wear respirators

July 14, 2010

LEAN: Full Interview: Ex Bp spill cleanup worker speaks out about worker safety

July 23, 2010

“Prison workers are required to work up to twelve hours a day, six days a week, and are liable to lose earned good time if they refuse the job. Inmates are also forbidden to talk to the public or media.”

Democracy Now: BP’s Hiring of Prison Labor Cleanup Scrutinized

NBC News: Field Notes: Oil spill illnesses, injuries double in past month (JoNel Aleccia)

* Current State of Affairs

Charts from:
NIOSH Report of BP Illness and Injury Data (PDF)

“The sum of the measured aromatics (benzene, toluene and C8-C11 aromatics) in this region was below 20 ppbv but well above maximum concentrations measured recently over the Los Angeles urban area.”

Air Chemistry in the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Area: NOAA WP-3D: Airborne Chemical Laboratory Flights of 8 and 10 June 2010

* Staying Safe

CDC: Emergency Preparedness and Response: What to Expect from the Oil Spill and How to Protect Your Health

Air Quality: “If you smell gas or see smoke or know that fires are nearby, stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart.”
Food: “Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not be concerned about the safety of seafood in the stores at this time.”
Water: “Drinking water and household water are not expected to be affected by the spill. However, water used for recreation may be affected. Swimming in water contaminated with chemicals from the oil spill could cause health effects.”
Dispersants: “For most people, brief contact with a small amount of oil spill dispersants will do no harm. However, longer contact can cause a rash and dry skin. Dispersants can also irritate your eyes. Breathing or swallowing dispersants can also cause health effects.”

CDC: Oil Spill Response: Light Crude Oil and Your Health

1. Avoid skin contact with oil. If you are involved in clean-up efforts, wear gloves, eye protection, and clothing that cover your arms and legs.
2. If you get oil on your skin, wash with soap and water, baby oil, petroleum jelly, or a cleaning paste for hands such as those sold at auto parts stores. Do not use solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or similar products to clean oil off skin.
3. If you get oil in your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes.
4. If you swallow oil, do not try to vomit it, as this may get oil into your lungs.
5. If you inhale oil vapors, or smoke from burning oil, move to an area where the air is more clear. If you have inhaled a lot of vapor or smoke and feel short of breath, have chest pain or tightness, or dizziness, seek medical attention.

* At Risk?

If you live along the coast, avoid areas where there are reports of oil reaching the shore.
– If the smell bothers you or you see smoke, stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demand on your lungs and heart.
– If you find any oil, avoid touching it, as well as oil spill-affected water and sand.
– If some of the oil gets on your skin, wash it off as soon as you can with soap and water.
– If you begin to feel sick after coming into contact with the oil or spill-affected areas, contact your doctor or other health professional.
– Follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings related to the oil spill (see links to resources below).
CDC: Emergency Preparedness and Response: Pregnancy

If you are concerned about exposure, SEE YOUR DOCTOR.

What else can I do? The usual: Drink lots of clean water, get good sleep, stay positive. Try to promote resilience (Facts, Plan, Connect, Hope, Help)

American Psychological Association: Shore Up Your Resilience to Manage Distress Caused by the Oil Disaster in the Gulf

What are the doctors being told?

“These surveillance systems are being used to track symptoms related to the eyes, skin, and respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems, including worsening of asthma, cough, chest pain, eye irritation, nausea, and headache. If the surveillance systems identify groups of people with these symptoms, state and local public health officials will be able to follow up as needed to investigate whether there is an association between the symptoms and the oil spill. This follow-up is important because the same symptoms could be related to a cause unrelated to the oil spill.”
CDC: Emergency Preparedness and Response: Health Surveillance

CDC: NIOSH HomeWorkplace Safety & Health Topics: Deepwater Horizon Response: NIOSH Report of BP Illness and Injury Data, July 12, 2010

* Feel Lucky? Or Not


• Do not touch or collect tar balls. Beach cleaning should only be done by trained professionals.
• Avoid entering areas where oil can be seen or smelled.
• Avoid direct skin contact with oil, oil-contaminated water and sediments.
• Do not swim or ski in areas affected by the oil spill, and if traveling through the area by boat, take precautions when hoisting the boat anchor. If oil makes contact with skin, wash it off with a grease-cutting liquid dishwashing detergent and water.
• Do not fish in oil spill-affected waters.
• Do not harvest or eat dead fish, fish with oily residue or fish that have a petroleum odor.
• Avoid boating through oil slicks or sheens.
• Young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and individuals with underlying respiratory conditions should avoid the area.
• Prevent pets from entering oil-contaminated areas.

Florida Department of Health (DOH) / Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): Deepwater Horizon Health Information Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

“If contact occurs, wash the area with grease cutting dishwashing detergent and water. DOH discourages the use of gasoline, kerosene or other solvents to clean oil from skin.”

* Want to Volunteer?

CDC: NIOSH HomeWorkplace Safety & Health Topics: DEEPWATER HORIZON RESPONSE: Medical Pre-Placement Evaluation Indicators for Health Professionals

Medical Conditions (Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Neurologic, Musculoskeletal, Dermatologic, Metabolic, Mental health, Visual or hearing impairments, Current infections or illness);
Potential Risk Factors
– Age > 65 years
– Poor physical conditioning
– Alcohol use, illicit substance use
– Heat intolerance, history of heat stress
– Motion sickness
– Current pregnancy

* Compounds & Symptoms

Most Commonly Reported Symptoms

nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness
headache, blurred vision, and dizziness


Light Crude Oil
– Skin contact: skin reddening, swelling, and burning; rash, skin infection
– Swallowing small amounts (less than a coffee cup): upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea, but is unlikely to have long-lasting health effects.


“Corexit is a poster child for the reformation of the US Toxic Substances Control Act.” Bernard Goldstein, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, at the IOM.

Risk level for humans: LOW
Warning signs:
– Rash and dry skin from unmixed dispersants left on the skin
– Dry and irritated eyes if dispersants blow or splash into the eyes
– Irritated nose, throat, and lungs if workers breathe in dispersants for a long time or several times
– Upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea if dispersants are swallowed

More contact with unmixed dispersants may cause other health problems that include:
– A metallic taste in your mouth
– Your liver and kidneys may not work as well as they should
– Passing out and in rare serious cases, going into a coma

More Info

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Tox FAQS:
Fuel Oil
Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH)

List of effects

Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEANweb): Health Impacts Associated with Dispersants and Louisiana Sweet Crude (Wilma Subra)

Current Reports

Dermatological / Skin:
“29 cases of skin rash were recorded between April 23 and June 20, 2010; 12 of those were attributed to the use of sunscreen wipes, which appeared to cause an allergic/irritant skin reaction in these cases. Five were attributed to heat rash.”

Chemical Exposures
– Carbon monoxide – June 14, 2010, 4 individuals on same boat
– Crude/weathered oil/dispersants:
6 cases
“4 cases involved dermal exposure to the face or arm. Other symptoms reported in association to oil or dispersant include nausea”

“Determination of actual exposure and risk is not a trivial task. To begin with, the composition of the spilled oil changes over time. The oil nearest the source of a spill contains higher levels of some of the more volatile and more toxic components, such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. These and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are well-known chemical hazards that can cause acute toxicity as well as longer-term health effects such as cancer, birth defects, and neurological effects. Oil that has been exposed to air and water for a period of time, so-called “weathered oil,” has lost most of these VOCs. Nonetheless, weathered oil still contains other hazardous chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals, such as nickel and lead, and therefore should be handled with skin protection. If aerosolized by wind and weather, it also could be taken into the body through respiration.”
Testimony: Statement by Aubrey Keith Miller, M.D., MPH, Senior Medical Advisor, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on NIEHS Activities Related to the Gulf Oil Spill before Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, United States House of Representatives; Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aguilera F, Mendez J, Pasaro E, Laffon B. (2010) Review on the effects of exposure to spilled oils on human health. J Appl Toxicol 30:291-301. Abstract

* Longterm Effects


Medscape: CDC and IOM Warn of Adverse Psychosocial, Cancer Effects From Gulf Oil Spill (Emma Hitt, June 28, 2010).

“In a recent article in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, the authors reviewed the results of studies of human health effects related to oil tanker spills as reported in 34 publications.[1] The clearest conclusion from the examination of these studies is that we have very little data; followup of exposed people has occurred only for a handful of the tanker spill incidents from the past several decades. Historically, the workers involved in cleanup have reported the highest levels of exposure and the most acute symptoms, when compared to subjects exposed in different ways, as seen in the reporting of higher levels of lower respiratory tract symptoms in fishermen who participated in cleanup following the Prestige tanker accident off the coast of Spain.[2] Other studies have looked at psychological effects of spills, both among workers and in affected communities; follow-up studies of affected populations from the Exxon Valdez spill, for example, reported higher levels of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depressive symptoms.[3] Such research findings remind us of the importance of keeping longer-term, less obvious sequelae in mind, not just the immediate toxicity effects, when considering the overall human health impact of this type of disaster.”
Testimony: Statement by Aubrey Keith Miller, M.D., MPH, Senior Medical Advisor, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on NIEHS Activities Related to the Gulf Oil Spill before Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, United States House of Representatives; Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aguilera F, Mendez J, Pasaro E, Laffon B. (2010) Review on the effects of exposure to spilled oils on human health. J Appl Toxicol 30:291-301. Abstract

Zock JP, Rodriguez-Trigo G, pozo-Rodriguez F, Barbera JA, Bouso L, Torralba Y, Anto JM, Gomez FP, Fuster C, Verea HS, SEPAR-Prestige Study Group. (2007) Prolonged respiratory symptoms in clean-up workers of the Prestige oil spill. Am J Resp Crit Care 176:610-616. Abstract

Palinkas LA, Petterson JS, Russell J, Downs MA. (1993) Community patterns of psychiatric-disorders after the Exxon-Valdez oil-spill. Am J Psychiat 150:1517-1523 Abstract

* Track This Topic

University of Michigan Risk Science Center: Gulf Oil Spill and Human Health Impacts Updates RSS Feed

Follow on Twitter:

Twitter Lists:
Crisis Camp: Oilspill
Yahoo News: Oil Spill
Marine Life Center: Oilspill

Louisiana Environmental Action Network

More links: http://delicious.com/rosefirerising/oilspill+health

* Recommended Sources

NIH: National Library of Medicine (NLM): Disaster Information Management Research Center: Crude Oil Spills and Health

Restore the Gulf

University of Southern Florida Libraries: Disaster Mental Health

Florida Department of Health (DOH) / Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): Deepwater Horizon Health Information Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

NOAA: Response: Deep Water Horizon

Emory University, Woodruff Health Sciences Center: Short- and Long-Term Health Impact of the Gulf Oil Disaster (Linda McCauley, Dean School of Nursing). (Playlist)

TEDxOilSpill | Videos

Institute of Medicine: Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: An Institute of Medicine Workshop:

TU04 – The Compelling Need to Understand the Potential Effects of Oil Spills on Human Health
Conference: Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
Date/Time: June 22, 2010 9:00am – 9:45am
Speakers: Bernard D. Goldstein Blanca Laffon Edward B. Overton


One response to “Oil Spill Health Overview in Second Life

  1. Why we haven’t switched to alternative fuels yet I dont know


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