A marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor reports in The Huffington Post that beach goers in four Gulf states are suffering skin rashes, blisters, welts, sore throats, ear bleeds and bronchitis after being in the ocean. The culprit? Dispersed oil – tiny bubbles of oil encased in chemical dispersants in the water column – and they’re invisible. Overexposure to crude oil through inhalation and skin contact are known to create these symptoms.
Worse — not only are small children at risk of breathing a higher dose of contaminants per body weight than adults, but children, pregnant women, people with compromised or stressed immune systems like cancer survivors and asthma sufferers, and African Americans are more at risk from oil and chemical exposure – the latter because they are prone to sickle cell anemia, reports the toxicologist.
Long-term effects of exposure to the chemical dispersants being used on the BP oil spill are yet to be seen but, as reported in The Tampa Tribune, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention assert that long-term exposure can cause central nervous system problems or damage to the kidneys or liver.
BP and hotels alike – particularly those with private beaches – would do well to post warning signs about the hazards and potential for personal injury in the water. This may give rise to resort and hotel liability for failure to warn guests of a known hazard.