What Are The Long Term Health Effects of the BP Oil Spill?

By: Meagan O'Halloran Email
By: Meagan O'Halloran Email
A cancer doctor checks out a patient at St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, NE.

A cancer doctor checks out a patient at St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, NE.

It's been more than 6-months since the oil spill. The well has been capped, fishermen are out in the gulf again, and businesses are trying to get back to normal. But is there still a risk when it comes to long term health implications associated with petroleum product and chemical dispersents in the gulf, on shore and in the air? One local doctor says he is already testing and treating patients for toxic exposure.

What else was washing up with the tarballs?

Dr. Rodney Soto, a licensed medical doctor, says the effects of organic volatile compounds found in petroleum product and chemical dispersents contain toxic material. He's already treating patients with symptoms of exposure..

"We're not talking about short term effects of irritation in the airways, headaches, or rashes people have been experiencing from symptoms that we get calls here in the office for.I'm more concerned about the long term health effects. Nobody talks about it, nobody's even thinking of that 5,10,15, 20 years from now that we're going to see--cancer" says Dr. Soto.

As an attmept to protect the public, oil impact advisories were constantly being put up and taken down across area beaches during the largest oil spill in our nation's history. But they eventually came down for good after testing was conducted by public health officials

Gail Allen of the Walton County Health Department said the signs were taken down as part of a joint operations effort with the county.
"Based on both water samples and sediment testing, there was no level of chemicals of concern that would cause a negative health impact" said Allen on August 16th.

But Dr. Soto isn't buying it:
"Remember, these are volatile compounds. They do evaporate, but where do they evaporate? They evaporate in the atmosphere and makes for other gases, and they don't back down on the rain. They remain in the air too, and that's why we cannot safely say we are ok now. These are very dangerous compounds."

Dr. Soto did say these toxic chemicals are derived from other products too --- such as dyes, pesticides, and fertilizers. Up to what degree becomes normal depends on how quickly the body can filter them out.

In part two of this story Dr. Soto will talk about the long term effects these chemicals can have on your health.

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