Plenty! Many newscasters and eyewitnesses have remarked on the disappearance of the oil spill over the last week or two. It is somewhat puzzling to see that such a large quantity of oil has somewhat vanished, at least on the surface level. However, it may only be wishful thinking that everything is moving back to normal (or at least a place where the environment is less toxic and not so saturated with oil and tar). While many experts agree that the Gulf Coast (and especially the plant & animal life) appear to be more resilient regarding the toxic effects of the oil spill than previous expected, there is still plenty of concern to go around regarding the possible harmful health effects related to the oil spill.
In a recently published article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors provide a comparison of this oil spill to previous similar tragedies regarding health effects and other illnesses. The authors of the commentary, Gina M. Solomon, MD, MPH, and Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, point to research from other oil spills to back up their conclusions. The article references possible health effects due to direct exposure to this oil spill. This exposure can lead to serious health problems to the individuals that work and live in the Gulf area. Some of the acute side effects include symptoms of vomiting, nausea, chest pain, respiratory diseases, and other illnesses that may not manifest themselves immediately from the direct exposure to the toxic chemicals from the BP incident. Many other professionals have commented on the concerns for the vast number of workers who were and are employed in the cleanup efforts of the oil spill. Will they show some delayed symptoms of their brief exposure to these chemicals? Additionally, there are still other concerns over the long term effects that individuals may have from ingesting seafood and other foods that are caught and grown in the Gulf region as well as any other physical exposure in the affected areas. Examination of other locations that were spoiled from oil release or spills has revealed that oysters, fish, and other plant life have not returned or do not thrive in a normal state, even after 20 years or more.
While taking an overly alarmist approach would be considered extreme, to believe that the worst of this tragedy is over or that the oil we can’t see anymore won’t harm us is also naïve. No one more than me (an individual that was born and raised in the South and has enjoyed many years of Gulf vacations on the beach) would like to see the Gulf region completely healed, the businesses thrive again, and the tourist industry have a quick and sustained rebound. Realistically, we all must make a concerted effort to not only study the effects (including environmental, health, social, and other consequences as related to human beings and wildlife), but also to make determinations as to the level of safety for food, water, and soil from the Gulf region so that the public can be assured that they may live, work, and visit the region without fear of health concerns. The US must also explore new technologies and new cautionary procedures to avoid the magnitude and scope of this type of calamity from ever happening in the future. Our thirst for oil and other sources of energy must be equally matched by our thirst to conserve the environment and the drive to avoid major disasters such as the ones we have witnessed in the recent days. These are a few of the many issues that are explored in the healthcare management concentration within the MBA Program at Belmont University.