By now, we have all heard about the BP spill in the Gulf Coast. The spill, which is increasingly being considered the largest in U.S. history, was caused by the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Last Tuesday, June 15, President Barack Obama gave a Presidential Address in which he outlined his action plan to deal with BP (a British-based global energy company responsible for the oil spill), the short and long-term effects of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and to ensure that a situation such as this never happens again.
We have heard from environmentalists everywhere, and have seen, that this catastrophic oil spill will devastate habitats, ecosystems, and put millions of animals, land and sea, in extreme danger. How will these environmental effects affect women, children and men?
According to a Truthout article, of particular concern to women and children should be the ingredients in the oil and in the dispersants that may be endocrine disruptors. According to the National Institutes of Health, the dispersants are:
"...chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife...Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming...Young children should not be allowed near the beach where they could come into direct contact with the oil." (Nat. Institutes of Health)
This tells us that the BP oil spill will and does have adverse effects for women's reproductive health as well as children's health. Although the evidence is unclear as to how the BP Oil Spill will affect women, children and men, looking at the health effects of past oil spills can perhaps give us a glimpse into the future of health surrounding this disaster. Below, I will list a summary of major oil spills in U.S. history and their health ramifications (credit:The Daily Green).
- In the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill of 1989, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) surveyed 599 local residents finding: exposed individuals were 3.6 times more likely to have anxiety disorder, 2.9 times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 2.1 times more likely to be depressed.
- The Braer Oil Spill of 1993 caused people living within a 5-kilometer radius 1-2 weeks after the oil spill to have a high prevalence of headache, throat irritation, dermatitis, and itchy eyes.
This glimpse of major oil spills' health effects displays that local residents feel and suffer from the effects of oil spills. Perhaps this is what will happen in the Gulf Coast, perhaps not. But we should all strive to hold BP accountable for their actions and demand that they, and President Obama, create a concise, efficient action plan to counter the short and long-term effects of the BP Oil Spill. Also, it would be helpful, in my opinion, for American society to realise that we have an immense dependence upon oil. We need to find new, clean alternative ways of producing energy because the threat of oil rig explosions, as seen with BP, is too costly and too great. It is harming our precious women, men, children, and environment. We need to finally understand that the Earth is not expendable and that we should treat it right for us and for our children.