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Biomedical scientist concerned about effects of oil spill on human health
Date:6/24/2010

s a biomarker to detect human exposure to toxins."

The researcher said a carcinogen usually has mutagenic and teratogenic effects on cells, meaning it can cause mutations in DNA and cause birth defects.

A study of the blood of individuals who worked on the Exxon Valdez cleanup following the spill in March of 1989 found DNA damage in those subjects. "DNA damage in certain functionally important areas of the genome can be a precursor to various human cancers," Cho said.

While individuals can get sick when volatile organic compounds evaporate, they would have to absorb the non-volatile compounds through ingestion or actual physical contact, he added.

"It has been reported that the size of the Gulf oil spill is unprecedented, much greater than that of the the (land mass) of New England area combined. You have to wonder about the fate of the crude oil that has not come ashore and recovered and what long term effects such toxins will have on the food chain," Cho said. "The pollutants from these toxins are going to be there for a long time."

Cho is worried about another phenomena from the spill-- the orange sheen seen on the surface of the gulf.

"That orange sheen is a result of a chemical reaction involving the sun, the crude oil and the oil dispersants," Cho said. "But nobody knows what's in that color and how toxic the chemicals are. Companies keep the chemical makeup of the dispersants secret.

"Crude oil, like diesel fuel and cigarette smoke, contain thousands of chemicals, and we have studied only a few, so the big worry is the unknown activity of those chemicals we have not studied. According to the recent Cancer Advisory Board report to President Barack Obama, Americans are constantly exposed to chemicals. There are 80,000 of them, and we only know a little about them."


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Contact: Dave Lavallee
dlavallee@advance.uri.edu
401-874-2116
University of Rhode Island
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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