MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still poses a health threat to clean-up workers, fishermen and members of coastal communities, according to a group of researchers who have examined the area.
"Clinicians should be aware of, and look for, evidence of toxicity from exposures to oil and related chemicals. Symptomatic patients should be asked about occupation and location of residence, the physical examination should focus on the skin, respiratory tract, neurological system," Dr. Sarah Janssen, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco and a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco, said in a UCSF news release.
Janssen is co-author of a commentary published online Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association on the immediate and long-term health risks posed by toxic vapors, oil slicks, tar balls and contaminated seafood associated with the disaster.
"The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is well known as an ecological disaster, but what is less known is the risk to human health caused by oil contamination," article senior author Dr. Gina Solomon, senior director of UCSF's occupational and environmental medicine residency and fellowship program and senior scientist at the NRDC, said in the news release.
"We want to reach the volunteers, clean-up workers, fishermen, medical specialists and community members with practical information about the impact to their health from these chemicals. With correct information, we hope they can protect themselves and seek treatment if they don't feel well," Solomon said.
Air quality, skin irritation, mental health and seafood safety are the main areas of short- and long-term health concerns.
Air quality is a potential issue because volatile organic compounds can evaporate within hours after oil makes contact with water and cause
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