This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Will Be the Long-Term Health Effects of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf?

The National Academy of Sciences has published the findings from a workshop that brought together experts to assess the long-term physical, social, and economic health effects of the BP oil spill. As you would expect, there is no good news here.
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is different from previous oil spills, which adds a layer of uncertainty that must be explored. In addition to the ongoing nature of the oil spill, the presence of underwater oil, and the use of dispersants, pressure washing, and controlled burns, the sheer volume of the spill distinguishes the Gulf oil spill from other spills discussed in the literature.

Gulf residents are still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Coupled with community concerns about the lack of transparency and paucity of information from various sources, the vulnerabilities suggest that long-term psychological and social impacts may be as significant as the physical impacts of the Gulf oil spill.

Workshop participants suggested a variety of surveillance procedures that need to be put in place to track the effects over the long-term, in order to protect the health of the populations at risk in the gulf states and, of course, to learn for the future, since this is unlikely to be the last big oil spill that the world will face.

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