Coastal air quality post Gulf spill improving slowly: Experts

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Washington, Aug 17 (ANI): Now that the oil leak has been stopped, UCSF researchers who spent time in the region are saying that one of the risk factors, coastal air quality, is improving.

Air quality, skin irritation, mental health and seafood safety are the primary areas of short and long term health concerns, according to the authors.

In the early months of the Gulf oil spill, more than 300 individuals, most of whom were cleanup workers, sought medical attention for headaches, dizziness, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, cough and respiratory distress that might be consistent with chemical exposure, according to data collected by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

The risk to air quality comes partly from volatile organic compounds that evaporate within hours after oil makes contact with water.

These chemical compounds can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, and nausea. Other compounds released by the oil or by the chemicals used to disperse the oil include chemicals that can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems and damage to the central nervous system.

The researchers advise the following measures:

Workers may need protective equipment such as hats, gloves, boots, coveralls, safety goggles, and even respirators in some areas.

If there is a strong smell of oil outside and it makes you feel ill, go inside and adjust the air conditioner to re-circulate air.

Workers need to take breaks and drink ample fluids to prevent heat-related illness.

Do not fish in areas of known oil contamination or where there is visible oil.

The commentary will be published online August 16th and in the September 8, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. (ANI)

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