The Louisiana Environmental Action Network has released their analysis of the air monitoring tests done by the EPA. Can you guess what they might have found? Their findings indicate that concentrations of Volatile Organic Chemicals in the air from the oil spill between April 30 through May 6 may have exceeded the Louisiana Ambient Air Standards annual averages by as much 50X and the Hydrogen Sulfide concentrations on May 3, 5 & 6 exceeded the Physical Reaction Symptoms concentrations by a factor of 100 to 120 times. Yea, 50-120 times the averages normally found in the Gulf area and way beyond what is considered “safe” exposure levels for humans.
So much for offshore oil drilling being “safe”.
For instance, hydrogen sulfide has been detected at concentrations more than 100 times greater than the level known to cause physical reactions in people. Among the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure are eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, dizziness, confusion and headache.
The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion. But as recently as last Thursday, the EPA measured levels at 1,000 ppb. The highest levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide measured so far were on May 3, at 1,192 ppb.
Testing data also shows levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana’s own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.
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, while the EPA considers methylene chloride a probable carcinogen.
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.
Someday, we will hopefully stop fooling ourselves into believing that abusing fossil fuels is safe and can continue forever. And sadly, it will take more spills and accidents like this one to get us there.
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