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Study: Air Near Oil Spill Contains 100 Times the Safe Amount of Toxins

Louisiana residents have enough problems to deal with from the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill without worrying about breathing. But they might have to. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) recently evaluated the EPA’s air content and quality testing results in Venice Beach, Louisiana and found that the level of some airborne toxins is greater than 100 times the quantity considered safe to humans.

Gulf oil spill

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Louisiana residents have enough problems to deal with from the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill without worrying about breathing. But they might have to. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) recently evaluated the EPA’s air content and quality testing results in Venice Beach, Louisiana and found that the level of some airborne toxins is greater than 100 times the quantity considered safe to humans.

LEAN’s claims are beyond disturbing. The group reports that the hydrogen sulfide content at Venice Beach, Louisiana is up to 1,192 parts per billion. People start experiencing physical symptoms at 5 to 10 parts per billion. These symptoms include sore eyes, mucous membrane irritation, neurological damage (including dementia, disorientation, and memory failure), adverse respiratory effects, tremor, headache, dizziness, and ocular damage. LEAN also claims that levels of volatile organic compounds are also higher than normal:

Louisiana’s ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb, while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer. Air testing results show VOC concentrations far above these state standards. On May 6, for example, the EPA measured VOCs at levels of 483 ppb. The highest levels detected to date were on April 30, at 3,084 ppb, following by May 2, at 3,416 ppb.

We don’t have any third-party verification that this evaluation is correct, but the information comes from the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group, which correctly informed us that BP’s underwater dome failed in advance of the oil company’s announcement. If the air quality news is true, BP better be prepared to shell out many millions more in damages.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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