National Consumers League

Gulf oil spill health implications -- for YOU?


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While your heart might break at the images of oil-saturated birds and the stories of small fishing-based communities losing everything, there are few other ways the gulf oil spill can affect your health – particularly if you live near the Gulf. For those of you living close to the spill, or who may come in contact with it as it makes its way up the East Coast, the CDC offers a few basic tips:

  • Avoid skin contact; if you’re helping with the clean-up - wear gloves, eye, protection, and cover your arms and legs
  • If you get oil on your skin, wash with soap, water, baby oil, petroleum jelly, or a cleaning paste you might find at an auto parts store.  DO NOT USE solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or similar products.
  • If you get oil in your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes.
  • If you swallow oil, DO NOT TRY TO VOMIT because you may end up with oil in your lungs.
  • If you inhale oil vapors or smoke from burning oil, move to an area with cleaner air. Seek medical attention if you’ve inhaled a substantial amount or if you have trouble breathing or feel dizzy.
If you are worried about your seafood getting contaminated, you can keep tabs on food safety on the FDA’s oil spill site, which includes federal and state links regarding closed waters.  State and federal officials are monitoring the water and the food coming out of the Gulf to ensure that it remains safe to consume. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a scientific agency within the Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and atmosphere, is closing fish and seafood harvesting areas that are contaminated as a precautionary measure.  The FDA states on their site that ‘there is no reason to believe that any contaminated product has made its way to the market.’ To learn more about the air, water, and food monitoring that’s being done by the government to protect your health, visit HHS’ oil spill site.