Researchers analyzes the spill's effect on shrimp

August 16, 2010 7:19:22 PM PDT
The shrimping season re-opened on Monday in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since the BP oil leak in April, and early reports are encouraging, shrimp are plentiful and appear to be oil free.

But many shrimpers spent the summer cleaning up oil and UCSF research released shows they could face some unexpected health problems.

"I still can't tell what the scope of the health effects will be," UCSF researcher Dr. Gina Solomon said.

Ten weeks after returning from the Gulf of Mexico, Solomon says the health toll on clean-up volunteers and communities there could last years.

"Some of the chemicals in oil can be inhaled in the lungs and get into the blood stream and effect brain and these are the volatile compounds," she said.

In the early months of the spill Solomon says clean-up volunteers complained of skin irritations, headaches, nausea, poor air quality and chest pains.

Now that the oil leak has been capped air quality is improving, and so is the environment those cleaning up are working in.

But it is the long term mental effects of the toxic exposure that people need to be concerned about.

A survey conducted a year after the Exxon Valdez spill found those exposed to the oil where three times likely to have anxiety disorder, two times more likely to have post traumatic stress disorder.

While today's opening of the gulf shrimp season is another sign the area is improving, Solomon believes more testing on the seafood is needed.

"In many decisions on opening the fisheries one of the things the agencies are relying on its people smelling shrimp and fish to see if there is an oily odor, but it is not 100 percent," she said.

Solomon will return to the Gulf next month to continue her research.


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