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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Research Paper


Abstract

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill started in 20 April 2010. It resulted in the death of 11 people. In addition, it damaged the marine ecosystem. BP owned the off-shore oil drilling facility.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in the release of approximately 5 million barrels of oil into the sea. There was unrestricted flow of oil into the sea for almost 3 months. A massive explosion caused the oil to spill into the sea. BP capped the oil rig on 15 July 2010.

Thousands of workers were involved in various activities to remove the oil from the environment. This exposed the workers to various toxic chemicals found in oil. Benzene is one of the major toxic compounds found in oil (Freudenburg & Gramling, 2011).

Acme Industrial Hygiene Consultants conducted a benzene exposure assessment in its facility between June 2010 and August 2010. The study compared the levels of exposure of beach cleanup crew and boat operators.

The study showed that beach cleanup crew who were in certain locations had exposure that exceeded the occupational exposure limits (OEL). However, boat operators did not have exposure that exceeded the OEL.

Introduction

Acme Industrial Hygiene Consultants conducted a study on the potential benzene exposure due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The study compared the rate of exposure of benzene of the boat operators and the beach cleanup crew.

Boat operators worked in the off-shore remedial operations. On the other hand, beach cleanup crew worked focused on near shore remedial operations.

The study involved collection of personal samples from the interested parties. The samples determined the parties that had higher exposure to benzene. The sampling time was 4 hours and the flow rate was 0.05 L/min for charcoal tube.

Discussion

Benzene is a highly toxic compound. Exposure to benzene usually leads to the suppression of bone marrow cell proliferation in humans. In addition, benzene leads to hematological disorders. Chronic exposure to benzene may lead to fatal health conditions. It may lead to aplastic anemia.

In addition, benzene is a known human carcinogen. Exposure to benzene increases the likelihood of suffering from leukemia and other types of cancer.

In addition, an individual who works in a location that has exposure to 1 ppm of benzene is 1.5 times more likely to suffer from leukemia than an individual who works in a benzene free environment (Rinsky, Smith & Hormung, 1987).

There are several signs and symptoms of exposure to benzene. These conditions are dependent on the level of exposure. Acute exposure of benzene may lead to confusion, euphoria, stomach pain, vomiting, and burning of the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus.

The time it takes to experience these conditions is usually dependent on the magnitude of the dose that the individual has ingested (Greenberg, 2003). There are no specific early symptoms of chronic exposure to benzene. The symptoms may vary from one individual to another.

Manifestation of thrombocytopenia is one of the early symptoms of chronic exposure to benzene. Benzene poisoning does not have an antidote. Removal from exposure and administration of oxygen are the major methods of treating benzene poisoning (Lazaridis & Colbeck, 2010).

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) workplace permissible exposure level (PEL) of benzene is 1 ppm.

In addition, the short-term exposure limit of benzene is 5 ppm. OSHA used several studies to determine the legal limits of exposure to benzene.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the acceptable exposure limit of benzene is 0.1 ppm for a 10-hour TWA. NIOSH stipulates that workers should treat benzene as a human carcinogen (Morgan et al., 2013).

Section 112 of the Clean Air Act classifies benzene as a harmful pollutant. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have specific air standards for benzene. EPA has several regulations that limit benzene emissions during the filling of storage tanks in gas stations.

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 led to a significant reduction in ambient levels of benzene. According to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, drinking water should not have more than 5 ppb of benzene.

In fact, the EPA strives to ensure that there is zero benzene concentration in drinking water. This would reduce the health effects due to exposure to benzene (Lippmann, 2009).

Results

The study used charcoal tubes (SKC lot 107) to collect benzene. The study evaluated the benzene using OSHA Method 12. Passive samplers are vital in the assessment of the sampling performance of benzene. Passive samplers had a high rate during the first 5 minutes.

Therefore, it was vital to use a sampling time of at least 10 minutes. This would produce the most accurate results. Below are the statistical results for the personal samples of the cleanup crew and boat operators.

Site name Sampling date Sample Alternate Id Lab number Total time Result (total) Reporting limit (ppm)
3 Mile Road Beach Access 04-Jul-2010 0041830 D82459 106 ND .36
Beach Ops East Sector 13-Jul-2010 0044971 D83182 240 ND .16
Beach Ops East Sector 13-Jul-2010 0045033 D83185 240 ND .16
Beachfront Gulfport 22-Jul-2010 0043845 D83857 150 ND .16
Beachfront Gulfport 22-Jul-2010 0043866 D83858 150 ND .16
Bell Fountaine Beach 10-Jul-2010 0347653 D82537 100 ND .16
Belle Fontaine Beach 03-Jul-2010 0055622 D82098 240 ND .16
Belle Fontaine Beach West & East 08-Jul-2010 0055315 D82796 20 ND 1.9
Belle Fontaine Beach West & East 08-Jul-2010 0055336 D82795 20 ND 1.9
Biloxi Beach 28-Jun-2010 0056165 D81664 20 ND 1.9
Biloxi Holley 18-Jul-2010 0044225 D83266 180 ND .21
Camp Helen State Park 07-Jul-2010 0040016 D82815 230 ND .16
Camp Helen State Park 07-Jul-2010 0039975 D82817 230 ND .16
Dauphin Island 03-Jul-2010 0040474 D81926 184 ND .17
Dauphin Island 03-Jul-2010 0040457 D81925 206 ND .15
Dauphin Island Beach Ops East 22-Jul-2010 0044755 D83769 240 ND .16
Dauphin Island Beach Ops East 22-Jul-2010 0044772 D83770 240 ND .16
Dauphin Island West Beach 29-Jul-2010 0180052 D84253 138 ND .27
Dauphin Island West Beach 29-Jul-2010 0180068 D84254 140 ND .27
East Perdido Pass 29-Jun-2010 0037426 D81981 123 ND .31
Fort Pickens 02-Jul-2010 0063972 D81830 120 ND .3
Fort Pickens 02-Jul-2010 0063993 D81827 125 ND .32
Gulfport Beach 02-Jul-2010 0349107 D82130 29 ND 1.31
Little Lagoon 30-Jun-2010 0037501 D81978 78 ND .49
Little Lagoon 30-Jun-2010 0041556 D81979 78 ND .49

Table 1.1. Levels of exposure of beach cleanup crew

Descriptive Statistics

Number of samples 25
Maximum 1.9 ppm
Minimum 0.15 ppm
Range 1.75
Percentage above occupational exposure limits (OEL) 12
Mean 0.478
Median 0.21
Standard deviation 0.586
Geometric mean 0.302
95th percentile exposure level 1.9
Worker’s exposure category 2

 

Site name Sampling date Sample Alternate Id Lab number Total time Result (total) Reporting limit (ppm)
8th Street Decon 05-Aug-2010 0351374 D84771 332 ND .11
Barnicle Bill’s Marina & Grill 16-Jul-2010 0045290 D83205 240 ND .16
Barnicle Bill’s Marina & Grill 16-Jul-2010 0045316 D83198 240 ND .06
Bayou Chico 18-Jul-2010 0064089 D83211 420 ND .09
Bayou Chico Marina 06-Aug-2010 0050397 D84883 240 ND .16
Boggy Point 01-Jul-2010 0041594 D82482 189 ND .2
Boggy Point 01-Jul-2010 0041616 D82483 185 ND .2
Floating City III 19-Jul-2010 0118871 D83749 123 ND .31
Floating City III 19-Jul-2010 0118918 D83751 120 ND .32
Laborde Marine 11-Jun-2010 0056760 D80280 480 ND .03
M/V 21-Jul-2010 0119192 D83832 247 ND .15
M/V 21-Jul-2010 0119116 D83834 243 ND .16
NAS Pensacola Pier 02-Aug-2010 0179467 D84490 180 ND .21
NAS Penscola Pier 03-Aug-2010 0179507 D84492 240 ND .16
Naval Air Station, Pensacola FL 28-Jul-2010 0179264 D84288 180 ND .21
Naval Air Station, Pensacola FL 28-Jul-2010 0179326 D84289 165 ND .23
Orange Beach 10-Aug-2010 0184311 D85168 261 ND .15
Pensacola Bay NAS 31-Jul-2010 0179576 D84239 225 ND .17
Pensacola Bay NAS 31-Jul-2010 0179595 D84243 240 ND .16
Perdido Key 12-Jun-2010 0037899 D80282 211 ND .03
Sportsmans Marina – offshore 30-Jul-2010 0180611 D84268 205 ND .18
Sportsmans Marina – offshore 31-Jul-2010 0180695 D84263 240 ND .16
The Boat, MOB #59178 16-Jul-2010 0227810 D83278 460 ND .08
Venice 08-Jul-2010 0014703 D82603 222 ND .14
Zeke’s Marina 29-Jul-2010 0180514 D84224 205 ND .18

Table 1.2. Levels of exposure of boat operators

Descriptive Statistics

Number of samples 25
Maximum 0.32 ppm
Minimum 0.03 ppm
Range 0.29
Percentage above occupational exposure limits (OEL) 0
Mean 0.1604
Median 0.16
Standard deviation 0.0708
Geometric mean 0.1406
95th percentile exposure level 0.317
Worker’s exposure category 1

Conclusion

Petroleum products are the major source of benzene. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in the discharge of approximately 5 million barrels of oil. There was a huge response to protect the environment from the spread of the oil.

Workers who were involved in the removal of the oil had very high levels of exposure to benzene (Freudenburg & Gramling, 2011).

From the above statistical results, it is clear that beach cleanup crew had a higher exposure rate that boat operators. Beach cleanup crew who worked in Biloxi Beach and ‘Belle Fontaine Beach West & East’ had the highest levels of exposure.

The beach cleanup crew in these locations were involved in picking up tar balls. Therefore, they were in direct contact with benzene. This increased their level of exposure to benzene. Their level of exposure was higher than the OEL.

The mean exposure level of beach cleanup crew was 0.478 ppm. This is a very high value. Constant exposure to this value may lead to mild health conditions. Exposure to benzene was through direct contact and inhalation of contaminated air.

Boat operators had low exposure to benzene. The descriptive statistics show that their mean exposure level was 0.1604 ppm. The boat operators were not in direct contact with benzene. This reduced their levels of exposure to benzene.

Boat operators in Floating City III had a higher level of exposure to benzene. However, their level of exposure was significantly lower than the OEL.

Boat operators and beach cleanup crew had exposure to more than 0.1 ppm of benzene. This is higher than the NIOSH acceptable exposure limit for a 10-hour TWA.

References

Freudenburg, W.R. & Gramling, R. (2011). Blowout in the Gulf: The BP oil spill disaster and the future of energy in energy in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Greenberg, M.I. (2003). Occupational, industrial, and environmental toxicology. London: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Lazaridis, M. & Colbeck, I. (2010). Human exposure to pollutants via dermal absorption and inhalation. London: Springer.

Lippmann, M. (2009). Environmental toxicants: Human exposures and their health effects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Morgan, D.F., Green, R.T., Shinn, C.W. & Robinson, K.S. (2013). Foundations of public service. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Rinsky, R.A., Smith, A.B. & Hormung, R. (1987). Benzene and leukemia: An epidemiologic risk assessment. New England Journal of Medicine, 316(17), 1044-1050.

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IvyPanda. (2019, December 29). Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/deepwater-horizon-oil-spill/

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"Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill." IvyPanda, 29 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/deepwater-horizon-oil-spill/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill." December 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/deepwater-horizon-oil-spill/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill'. 29 December.

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