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Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill
Spill caused significant psychological impact even to nearby communities not directly touched by oil

From the February 15, 2011 Eurkea news alert

Baltimore, MD – Feb. 17, 2011. The explosion and fire on a BP-licensed oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 had huge environmental and economic effects, with millions of gallons of oil leaking into the water for more than five months. It also had significant psychological impact on people living in coastal communities, even in those areas that did not have direct oil exposure, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who worked in collaboration with the University of Florida, Gainesville. Study results will be published in the February 17 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

“We found that people living in communities with and without direct oil exposure had similar levels of psychological distress. People in both groups showed clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety. Also, where compared to people whose income was unaffected by the disaster, people with spill-related income loss in both groups had higher rates of depression, were less resilient and were more likely to cope using ‘behavioral disengagement,’ which involves just ‘giving up’ trying to deal the problem,” explains Lynn Grattan, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Maryland investigators, who traveled to the region soon after the spill, worked with Gulf Coast community leaders to get “real-time” assessments of the acute impacts of the spill. Their goal was to measure the acute psychological distress, coping resilience and perceived risk (concerns about the environmental impact and potential health consequences) of people living along the Gulf Coast. By doing this, they could help identify the potential mental health needs of the Northwest Gulf Coast communities. They examined the psychological impact in two fishing communities: Baldwin County, Alabama, and Franklin County, Florida. Baldwin County had direct oil exposure; Franklin County did not. The researchers defined indirect impact as a place where oil did not physically reach the coastline, but where anticipation of the oil spread significantly affected the community’s recreation, tourism and fishing industries.

“The findings of these University of Maryland researchers may have important implications for planning public health response in similar situations, suggesting that a broader approach may needed,” adds E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The people in Florida, where oil had not reached shore, showed similar elevated levels of anxiety and depression as those living in Alabama who had direct oil exposure. Both groups had similar high levels of worry about the impact of the spill on the environment, health and seafood safety.

However, the levels of psychological distress were higher in both communities among people who had suffered income loss because of the spill. They had significantly more tension, anger, fatigue and overall mood disturbance than those whose income was not adversely affected. These people also had lower scores on resilience and may have fewer psychological resources to bounce back from adversity.

“From a public health standpoint, we need to understand that when there is a significant environmental crisis, we need to extend public health outreach and education, psychological monitoring and mental health services beyond the immediately affected areas, paying particular attention to people at risk for income loss. There are things that can be done to help people manage their stress and anxiety, and cope in these situations, so these interventions need to be available immediately in the communities where the impacted individuals live,” adds Dr. Grattan, who is also a neuropsychologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The study on psychological impact built on a research program by University of Florida investigators who were already in the area to study the acute environmental and health impact of the spill. Through contacts with local community and religious leaders, trade associations, the University of Florida extension office and other agencies, the Maryland researchers recruited 71 residents in Florida and 23 from Alabama for the psychological assessment.

The team evaluated the participants through interviews and standardized assessments of psychological distress, resilience and coping. The team also looked at whether the participants had cognitive symptoms of neurotoxicity as a result of exposure to oil and chemical dispersants. These included assessments of attention, memory, and dexterity and speed (through a pegboard puzzle task). The researchers also asked the participants about what they were doing to cope with the situation, which could range from prayer and meditation to increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Related news item

Psychological effects of BP oil spill go beyond residents of impacted shorelines

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toxic chemicals found deep at BP oil spill site

From a November 2, 2010 Health Day news item (Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Jerry Norton)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Toxic chemicals at levels high enough to kill sea animals extended deep underwater soon after the BP oil spill, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

They found evidence of the chemicals as deep as 3,300 feet and as far away as 8 miles in May, and said the spread likely worsened as more oil spilled.

The chemicals, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, can kill animals right away in high enough concentrations and can cause cancer over time……..

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , | Leave a comment

NOAA and FDA announce chemical test for dispersant in Gulf seafood

All Samples Test Within Safety Threshold

From an October 29, 2010 US Food and Drug Administration news release

Building upon the extensive testing and protocols already in use by federal, state and local officials for the fishing waters of the Gulf, NOAA [US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and FDA have developed and are using a chemical test to detect dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Trace amounts of the chemicals used in dispersants are common, and levels for safety have been previously set.
Experts trained in a rigorous sensory analysis process have been testing Gulf seafood for the presence of contaminants, and every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant. Nonetheless, to ensure consumers have total confidence in the safety of seafood being harvested from the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have added this second test for dispersant when considering reopening Gulf waters to fishing.
Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters. As such, they do not pose a threat to human health.
The new test detects dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, known as DOSS, a major component of the dispersants used in the Gulf. DOSS is also approved by FDA for use in various household products and over-the-counter medication at very low levels. The best scientific data to date indicates that DOSS does not build up in fish tissues.
“The rigorous testing we have done from the very beginning gives us confidence in the safety of seafood being brought to market from the Gulf,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary for Commerce and NOAA Administrator. “This test adds another layer of information, reinforcing our findings to date that seafood from the Gulf remains safe.”
“This new test should help strengthen consumer confidence in Gulf seafood,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “The overwhelming majority of the seafood tested shows no detectable residue, and not one of the samples shows a residue level that would be harmful for humans. There is no question Gulf seafood coming to market is safe from oil or dispersant residue.”
The 1,735 samples tested so far were collected from June to September and cover a wide area of the Gulf. The samples come from open areas in state and federal waters, and from fishermen who brought fish to the docks at the request of federal seafood analysts. The samples come from a range of species, including grouper, tuna, wahoo, swordfish, gray snapper, butterfish, red drum, croaker, and shrimp, crabs and oysters.
Previous research provided information about how finfish metabolize DOSS, and at FDA’s Dauphin Island, Alabama lab, scientists undertook further exposure experiments on fish, oysters and crab; similar experiments on shrimp were held at NOAA’s Galveston, Texas lab. These exposure studies further support that fish, crustaceans and shellfish quickly clear dispersant from their tissues, and provided samples with known concentrations for use as standards for validating the methodology. Samples undergoing chemical analysis are always accompanied by standards with known concentrations of DOSS, to verify the equipment continues to measure the compound accurately.
Nearly 9,444 square miles, or about 4 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf are still closed to commercial and recreational fishing.

For more information:

 

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

CDC Responds to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are currently monitoring potential health threats or conditions across the five Gulf States that may arise as a result of human exposure to the oil spill. Current focus is on surveillance, worker safety, and data analysis.

A summary of this update may be found here

 The CDC Web Page , 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill includes the following links:

 

Contact information for the CDC is also provided.

On a related note…..




June 25, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | | Leave a comment

   

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