Crude oil spills are not an everyday occurrence, but they do happen and the consequences can be deadly. Not only do oil spills heavily impact the ecosystem, negatively affecting wildlife and plant matter, but they can also affect people, causing numerous health problems and illnesses. 

How Do Humans Come Into Contact With Oil Spills?

Of course workers who are tasked with cleaning up oil spills come into direct contact with crude oil. They take the proper precautions and wear protective gear so as to limit exposure, but they are still at risk. Not only are those involved with oil spill clean-up efforts at risk, but everyday civilians can also come into contact with crude oil. For example, in the case of an oil spill in the ocean, there could be a delay in reporting the spill and thus, people are unknowingly exposed to it. 

According to the Orange County oil spill personal injury attorneys at Bentley & More, LLP, swimmers, divers and surfers can all easily be exposed to crude oil in the ocean if the proper reporting and precautions are not taken in time. This leads to health problems for those who are exposed to it.

Health Complications Associated With Crude Oil Exposure

Crude oil is toxic and can cause many health complications for humans. Some of these include:

  • Skin irritation and rashes. Crude oil contains chemicals that some people can be extremely sensitive to. An allergic reaction can develop leading to skin burning, swelling and reddening. If the skin is exposed to the sun, these effects can worsen.
  • Eye irritation. If crude oil comes in contact with your eyes, it can cause irritation, redness, and more permanent problems.
  • Poisoning. Swallowing small amounts of crude oil can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. 
  • Respiratory problems. Breathing in the fumes of crude oil is known to cause nose, lung, and throat irritation, and chemical pneumonia. More severe complications related to inhaling crude oil vapors include coma, convulsions, and heart problems.

Long-term exposure to crude oil can increase the risk of cancer, damage blood and organs, and can cause central nervous system issues. 

Who Is Most At Risk For Developing Health Problems?

The population most at risk for developing crude oil-related health complications are children and pregnant women. Embryos, fetuses, and children are the most sensitive to even the smallest concentrations of chemicals, including toxic crude oil. The different components in crude oil are known teratogens that can cause birth defects and even be fatal for fetuses.

Crude oil is toxic to our ecosystem. Most of us are aware of the devastating effects oil spills have on wildlife, but we may not consider how people can be adversely affected by these toxic chemicals as well. Staying away from water sources contaminated with crude oil is one step to take to avoid health risks, but sometimes this can’t be done or people are unaware that an oil spill has taken place. In these instances, the health complications associated with crude oil spills can prove to be severe or even fatal.