Heavy on the minds of many is the devastating effect of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on both our health and safety and the health and safety of the environment. Thankfully the spill has been stopped, but not after hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil have polluted the waters, damaged the aquatic wildlife, and posed a nightmare to clean-up crews.
One of the pressing concerns is the impact of the volatile solvents that are being emitted into the atmosphere from the oil itself, as well as those created during the controlled burning process. Those living in the gulf coastal regions report odors that smell much like a gas station. The EPA is monitoring the levels of these solvents, which are mainly benzene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and toluene. While they report that the levels in the air are still within safe ranges, they do suggest those living in the coastal regions to stay indoors and put the air conditioning on re-circulate.
Side-effects of acute exposures to these volatile compounds include headaches, nausea, vomiting, cough, and dizziness. However, long-term exposures can lead to much more serious health problems such as increased risk of infertility, low-birth weight babies and miscarriage, decreased cognitive function and psychomotor coordination, decreased immune function, and increased risk of depression, insomnia, and certain cancers including leukemia and lymphoma.
If you are worried about your exposure to these volatile organic solvents, you can test your blood to see your levels. Metametrix offers a Volatile Solvents Profile that measures the solvents emitted from the oil spill as well as a few others that are found commonly in typical American air pollution.
Don’t wait until it is too late, have your doctor order a Volatile Solvents Profile for you and your family today to determine your risk and assess your exposure. —Dr. Eve Bralley