Oil spill creates health concerns for coastal residents

By Crystal Price - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Although the oil has not yet hit southwest Louisiana, residents near the coast have already begun feeling the short term health effects from the oil spill.

In the last month, a total of 109 oil spill related health cases have been reported in the state.

These cases have involved short term health effects such as respiratory problems, nausea, vomiting, and skin irritation.

Dr. Ben Degatur of Lake Charles Memorial Hospital said it is too early to tell whether or not these concerns could be long term.

However, experts said they do know some individuals are more at risk than others.

"Most at risk would be the folks involved with the actual clean up and those near pollutants," said Degatur.

But clean up workers are not the only individuals at risk, however.

While 74 of those health cases are clean up workers, 35 of those cases are among the general population.

"Anybody out in the Gulf may be slightly at risk,"said Degatur. "That's because the oil is still out in the Gulf and has not hit land yet."

Volatile Organic Compounds in the air created by the spill can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat.

Medical professionals want to remind all workers to wear the proper equipment when cleaning up the spill and to never use their bare hands.

"This oil has been floating around in the gulf and it may have picked up things that you can't see on the outside such as glass or hypodermic needles," said Degatur.

Medical experts urge those visiting or working near the spill to limit their amount of exposure to the air if they have asthma or have a high sensitivity to inhaled VOCs.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing health issues from the spill, feel free to call the LSU Medical Clinic at (337) 494-6767.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.