What Are the Potential Physical Health Effects From the Gulf Oil Spill?

An Expert Interview With Vikas Kapil, DO, MPH, From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Janet Kim, MPH


July 23, 2010

Medscape: Many of our Medscape members may not be involved with the direct care of patients exposed to an oil spill or similar disaster. However, they may be interested in becoming involved in other ways. What can they do to assist with disaster relief, either at the local or federal level?

Dr. Kapil: The response to the Gulf Oil Spill is being managed by a Unified Command made up of many federal agencies as well as BP and Transocean, the 2 private companies involved in the spill. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, please call the Deepwater Horizon Response Volunteer Request Line at 1-866-448-5816. Interested individuals can also search the Internet for state-specific volunteer opportunities, including in the Gulf states directly affected by this oil spill:

Medscape: Are there any final takeaway messages that clinicians and other healthcare professionals can keep in mind as we learn more about the health impact of this and similar disasters?

Dr. Kapil: Local poison control centers are an excellent resource for clinicians with questions about the evaluation, management, and treatment of persons exposed to both crude oil and oil spill dispersants.

The CDC recommends that people in the areas affected follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings related to the use of beaches and coastal water for recreational activities and fishing. The EPA is collecting samples of water along the coast to estimate the effects on fish, wildlife, and human health. The most up-to-date information on water sampling results is available on the EPA Website.

Web Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Available at: https://emergency.cdc.gov/gulfoilspill2010 Accessed July 21, 2010.

Institute of Medicine. Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: An Institute of Medicine Workshop. June 22-23, 2010. Available at: https://www.iom.edu/Activities/PublicHealth/OilSpillHealth/2010-JUN-22.aspx Accessed July 21, 2010.


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