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Gulf oil spill similar to Exxon Valdez in initial social and mental impacts, study finds
Date:4/19/2011

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused social disruption and psychological stress among Gulf residents that is similar to the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill and the impacts are likely to persist for years, a new study finds.

"Just ask the residents of Cordova today whether they are over the Exxon Valdez," said study co-author Liesel Ritchie, assistant director for research of the University of Colorado Boulder's Natural Hazards Center. The Alaska community was considered "ground zero" for the 1989 oil spill.

The research was a collaborative effort among Ritchie, Duane Gill of Oklahoma State University and J. Steven Picou of the University of South Alabama, each of whom did similar work in Cordova. Major funding was provided by the National Science Foundation and the study's results have been accepted for publication in two peer-reviewed journals.

The study focused on the residents of south Mobile County, Ala. The area along the Gulf includes the towns of Bayou la Batre and Dauphin Island, and numerous unincorporated communities.

Using a random telephone survey modeled after previous work on the Exxon Valdez spill, the University of South Alabama Polling Group in September 2010 received responses from 412 residents or 46 percent of those contacted. All responders were age 18 or older and had lived in the area for at least a year.

Major findings of the survey included the following:

  • Event-related psychological stress among residents of south Mobile County, five months after the BP oil spill, was similar to that of residents of Cordova five months after the Exxon Valdez.

  • If the trends observed in Cordova hold true for Alabama, significant spill-related psychological stress can be expected to continue in south Mobile County over the next decade.

  • One-fifth of south Mobile County respondents were in the severe stress category and another one-fourth were in the moder
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Contact: Liesel Ritchie
liesel.ritchie@colorado.edu
303-492-4181
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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