Oil spills and related clean-up efforts can pose numerous hazards to the physical health of individuals and communities. Nalini Sathiakumar quickly recapped some of the potentially hazardous chemicals and conditions associated with oil spills and provided a broad overview of the types of physical health outcomes that have been linked to specific hazards. Citing previous oil spill studies, she argued that currently available data can provide important information on risks of acute toxicity symptoms, genotoxicity, endocrine toxicity, and injuries, as well as the impact that proper use of personal protective equipment can have on reducing specific symptoms. Peter Spencer expanded on Sathiakumar’s overview by focusing on how exposures to select hydrocarbons in crude oil, including aromatic but also other types of hydrocarbons, can have chronic, neurotoxic effects on human health. He emphasized the transient nature of these effects in humans based on data from occupational exposure concentrations.
In addition to chemical toxins, another major hazard (and, in some places, the hazard of greatest concern) is heat. Turning his attention to workers and volunteers, Thomas Bernard described the well-known effects of heat stress and fatigue, but stated that additional information was needed on the cumulative effect of prolonged, daily exposures. He noted that the effects of heat stress and fatigue were easy to identify and manage.
In discussing the effects that certain chemicals can have on human reproduction and child development, Brenda Eskenazi described mechanisms by which chemical exposures can affect a child before conception, during gestation, and after birth. Drawing from non-oil-spill studies, she explored the types of health outcomes that could be monitored in a surveillance system, identified various sources for immediate biomonitoring activities, and explained the importance of adhering to the precautionary principle when working with pregnant women and children.
Finally, Irwin Redlener focused on child physical and psychological development and health, describing the crucial characteristics that make children uniquely vulnerable to short- and long-term adverse health effects stemming from the Gulf oil spill. He identified several activities that he thought would be important to include in a child health surveil-