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CDC and IOM Warn of Adverse Psychosocial, Cancer Effects From Gulf Oil Spill

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  • CDC and IOM Warn of Adverse Psychosocial, Cancer Effects From Gulf Oil Spill

    CDC and IOM Warn of Adverse Psychosocial, Cancer Effects From Gulf Oil Spill

    Emma Hitt, PhD
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    June 28, 2010 ? Psychosocial, as well as medical, effects will be important consequences of the Gulf oil spill, according to experts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


    Exposure Effects May Follow a Latent Period

    Scott Barnhart, MD, MPH, from the University of Washington, in Seattle, noted during his presentation that exposure effects from the oil spill may follow a latent period. "Crude oil contains a complex mixture of heavy metals and volatile and nonvolatile polyaromatic hydrocarbons, with the possibility of carcinogens," he said.

    According to Dr. Barnhart, exposure can occur through dermal and inhalational routes and possibly through ingesting oil-contaminated foods. Toxicities are dose-dependent and may include neurologic, renal, hepatic, dermatologic, and hematologic effects.

    Levels of Carcinogens Unclear

    Gina Solomon, MD, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council, noted in her blog that British Petroleum (BP) is claiming that "because the air concentrations of carcinogens such as benzene are below [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] limits, the workers involved in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill are not at risk of health effects."

    However, she adds that "BP is dismissing the fact that its own data have shown levels of hydrocarbons above BP's 'action level', and have shown levels of benzene and 2-butoxyethanol (the dispersant chemical) above the Recommended Exposure Limit set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health."

    Psychosocial Issues From Spill Are Important

    According to Maureen Lichtveld, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the number one effect that clinicians should look for are the psychosocial consequences.

    Last edited by sharon sanders; July 1, 2010, 12:14 PM. Reason: shortened
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