Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Health effects of the Gulf oil spill

The Deepwater Horizon Incident in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming a huge public health problem. The oil is contaminating the environment and the entire ecosystem in the Gulf. What types of health effects will we see this summer? Given that so many experts are concerned about hurricane season, it's alarming to consider how a hurricane could spread all this oil and cause significant havoc on land.

Workers at sea who are trying to clean all the oil are suffering from physician ailments that may be related to exposure to the cleaning chemicals. They're suffering from headaches and respiratory problems. At what point will seafood contamination reach a point that we can't control? At what point will the water become so hazardous that it endangers people spending their vacation at the beach? It doesn't take much for us to realize that our world really is small and everything on this planet is connected.

Right now, many people are debating the health effects of the current oil spill. Given the large size of the spill, we really have no way of predicting what type of health effects we will see over the coming months. I'm sure we'll see several articles published in major medical journals about the health effects of this oil spill. I also predict that there will be long-term health consequences that we won't recognize for several years (or possibly even decades). Modern public health surveillance technologies will allow us to follow people for  many years and see what types of health effects this oil spill may have on their bodies. 

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