Unsafe From Any Gulf

America's voracious oil consumption is criticized for many reasons in the media today, but three reasons seem to dominate the headlines. First, the Gulf oil disaster has galvanized public outrage at oil companies and led to questioning of our energy needs which push oil rigs out into treacherous deep waters. Second, climate change attracts significant attention, as academy award-winning films are made on the topic and the manufactured "Climategate"; scandal fills news articles with tales of espionage. Finally, as the Iraq War drags on and tensions with Iran remain high, every politician is giving lip service to the national security threat created by "our dependence on foreign oil." But what often gets ignored is perhaps the most obvious and persistent problem involved with oil use: air pollution.

Staggering Numbers

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that, "worst-case estimates place the total oil spilled in the gulf at about 126 million gallons over two months. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the country disgorges that much hydrocarbon pollution to the air in 10 days." The effects of air pollution are just as staggering. A study from Cal State Fullerton finds that at least 3,800 Californians die prematurely from smog every year, and babies in smoggy cities are three times more likely to develop heart defects. The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. A collective sense of outrage at this situation is sadly lacking. Images of millions slowly dying from heart and lung disease are not as compelling as oil-covered birds and burning oil fields. The Gulf Oil Spill must be stopped and cleaned up. But once it is, we need to realize that oil will kill millions of people a year, whether we get it from the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Mexico.


I was listening to the news report on the way to work today, and they said that the current cap on the well is holding and it looks like it will be successful this time. Did I get that information wrong?

Although the article is small compared to the nature and scope of the topic/subject, thanks to Maxwell, the main points have been put straight forward. Leaders associated with non-profit organization must vigorously work towards forming a strong movement so that not only the USA, but all countries mostly responsible for producing harmful gases are booked and be punished accordingly.

There is no "side" to this story. Air pollution kills people. As an anthropologist teaching medical anthropology, we understand that what we humans do to our environment directly and indirectly affects our health. Vehicular emissions produce carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide (CO). Acute carbon monoxide (CO) intoxication can result in subtle symptoms such as drowsiness, irritability and irrational behaviour (ever wonder about road rage?) that are not mentally connected with the source. But acute CO intoxication every year results in about 1,513 deaths- even in outdoor environments. Even in the presence of molecular oxygen, our blood haemoglobin prefers to bind with carbon monoxide starving our tissues of oxygen. And an idling vehicle produces many times more CO than a moving one. So, rush hour traffic can be hazardous to your health and temperament! There is a clear link between total vehicular emissions and diseases like asthma, leukemia and lymphoma. Children are especially vulnerable to these diseases because they are actively growing and developing. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy identifies benzene as one chemical which increases the risk of leukemia. And recent research links the fuel substance methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) with kidney and liver tumours. This medical manual also documents that asthma rates in the USA increased 29% from 1980 to 1987, and that death rates from asthma increased 31% for the same time period. Our collective public health is a measure of what we do collectively to the environment. Do some research: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/109/1/71

It's tragic in the Gulf -- I am in the phase of purchasing property and have been for months now -- I am not changing my mind as I have confidence that this will be cleaned up much faster than Valdez. This should enforce safety measures to be in place before we- as a country -decide to go forward with any future drilling.

air pollution is indeed of great concern, but hasn't this been the case all along? despite the huge impact that the oil spill has had on the environment, isn't it typical for the politicians to simply ignore the harmful effects of the air that we have to breathe. who knows what the long term problems that this mega disaster will have on us now and in the future.

It's been several months now since the oil spill. We don't hear about it anymore. I traveled to Gulf Shores a few months ago to check out the progress, since i am planning to move there.....all the workers are gone, and everyone assumes the oil is too.....I'm not so sure it isn't sinking to the bottom of the ocean. . . which could be haunting later.