From the Center for Disease Control:
People, including pregnant women, can be exposed to these chemicals by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (water, food), or by touching them (skin). If possible, everyone, including pregnant women, should avoid the oil and spill-affected areas. Generally, a pregnant woman will see or smell the chemicals in oil before those chemicals can hurt her or the baby. The EPA and CDC are working together to continue monitoring the levels of oil in the environment. If we begin to find levels that are more likely to be harmful, we will tell the public. For up-to-date information on monitoring data along the Gulf Coast, please visit EPAâ€™s website.
Although the oil vapors may contain some things that could be harmful to pregnant women, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies. EPA is testing the air daily and sending the samples to laboratories for further analysis. CDC is working with EPA to decide if there are any chemicals at harmful levels. In addition, EPA scientists are taking [or checking] air samples every hour so that people can be warned if the levels go up.
Like other government data, the CDC makes no sense. On the one hand they tell us that the chemicals will not cause harm and there is no threat. On the other hand, they tell those in spill-affected areas to avoid any contact.
We’re not exactly sure how the CDC defines an oil spill affected area, but our inclination is that anything within and around the oil spill is serious threat to human life, especially unborn babies.
We do not expect the CDC or EPA to provide any meaningful data to those directly affected by the spill, for example, the workers involved in clean-up efforts who have absolutely no protective gear.
From Business Week:
â€œThese workers donâ€™t need only rubber gloves and boots, they may need respirators to protect against inhalation of some pretty toxic fumes,â€ said Olden, who is also a former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. â€œThe one thing I keep hearing is that many workers were not and are not wearing protective gear. That concerns me.â€
Shira Kramer, an epidemiologist who has conducted research for the petroleum industry on the health consequences of exposure to petroleum, said she is concerned that the risks are being downplayed.
â€œItâ€™s completely scientifically dishonest to pooh-pooh the potential here when you are talking about some of the most toxic chemicals that we know,â€ said Kramer, who is founder and president of consulting firm Epidemiology International in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She isnâ€™t involved with the Institute panels.
â€œWhen you talk about community exposure, you are talking about exposures in unpredictable ways and to subpopulations that may be more highly susceptible than others, such as those of reproductive age, people who are immuno-compromised, children or fetuses.
At the risk of sounding distrustful of our government and BP, we suggest that the risks are most certainly being downplayed, just as they have downplayed the magnitude and potential destruction from this oil leak thus far.