When will we learn?
Posted on May 07, 2010 | Author: Dr. Richard Nahas | Category: General | 1 Comments
Another fine mess they've gotten us into. The fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig, owned by a company called Transocean, killed 11 people. The huge Macondo well, 5000 feet below the sea surface, is leaking 5000 barrels of crude oil a day. For years, every ship that approaches the port of New Orleans will have to be scrubbed clean for 12 hours to decontaminate it. That will back up all the shipping in the Gulf. It will muck up the underwater grasses and wreak havoc on the ecosystem there for a decade or so. It will contaminate the beaches and coastlines, affect the shrimp and salmon farms, pollute the fish in the deep water, and ... who knows what else will come of it.
This was bound to happen. When the human race is engaged in constantly digging and drilling, pumping and piping, extracting and finally burning this potent thick residue all over the planet, something is going to get spilled once in a while.
Now let's talk health. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in crude oil are an important group of toxins that increase cancer risk and have also been linked to several cancers, the diabetes epidemic, cardiovascular disease and a wide range of pregnancy-related problems, including miscarriage. Acute exposure of the kind that triggers asthma attacks and skin rashes is unlikely, but low-level exposure in people living near the coast is likely. Some experts have said the VOCs evaporate offshore so people living nearby are 'relatively safe'.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are also present in crude oil. These are the toxic chemicals that are produced when meat is cooked at high temperature - and they have replaced saturated fat as the most likely reason why people who eat more meat appear to get more cancer. The fish in the area will likely be full of these for years to come, and so people probably won't want to eat Atlantic fish for a long, long time.
One of the ways that the Coast Guard is dealing with the oil slick is to burn it. This will release much more particulate matter (PM) than that released by your car, because this is crude oil being burned in the open air. PM is the most dangerous part of air pollution, causing high blood pressure and heart attacks, lung disease and other disorders of chronic inflammation. People involved in the cleanup will be most affected by all these toxic compounds, but millions of people living in eastern states will also likely be at increased risk for many years to come.
Is there is a bright side to this disaster? The fantastic efforts to get at every last drop of oil on this planet are now being called into question. Many in the oil industry are desperate to see this mess cleaned up quickly and efficiently without consequences ... because if it isn't it might mean no more offshore oil drilling. Barack Obama has put a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico - for now. A planned project of the coast of Newfoundland will require offshore rigs that are almost twice as deep as the one that is burning. The politicians in Newfoundland say they were 'assured by Chevron' that there were safeguards in place, but it turns out that there is no such thing. The real problem, in the end, is that the human race still burns too much coal, gas and oil.
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