Oil spill health issues difficult to anticipate says expert

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – A UAB associate professor and researcher actively involved in dealing with oil spill repercussions says that there are many unknown effects that could stem from the spill.

Dr. Nalini Sathiakumar is part of a team formed in July by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that plans on researching health outcomes due to the oil spill. Symptoms like irritated eyes, skin rash and shortness of breath are already known. Sathiakumar feels that there are many risks related to the spill that have yet to be discovered.

Sathiakumar says she feels any and all effects should be observed. "This already is an unprecedented tragedy," she says. "We need to move quickly to monitor and study the physical and psychological impacts in the short term and long term among clean-up workers, volunteers and in adults and children, and we need to follow these with long-term studies."

In 2003, a Greek Supertanker ran aground near Karachi, Afghanistan. Sathiakumar was able to investigate the large spill and found that symptoms tended to decrease the further a subject was from the site of the spill.

Since 1960, there have been around 400 tanker spills. 38 of those spills were supertankers. Seven supertanker spills have been researched, but long-term effects were only given limited analysis.

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