Workers already involved in the clean up are particularly at risk, of course, and they are already reporting symptoms of all sorts, including physical injuries from slipping on the oil, plus heat and fatigue, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Crude oil is a complex mixture of petrochemicals that can affect your brain, skin, lungs and nervous system. Short-term effects include dizziness, euphoria, nausea, blurry vision and headaches caused by benzene, toluene, and xylenes in gasonline. Long term effects, caused by benzene could be leukaemia and other cancers.
According to the professor, the danger is compounded by the fact that all the toxins can affect at one time and different toxins affect different people in variable manners.
"The combination can, in many cases, have more effect," Woodruff said.
"It's like getting hit from different sides-right hook, left hook and on top of the head."
"It definitely would be worse for children to be exposed," she added.
Since these toxins can be absorbed directly through the skin or lungs, the only way to avoid them is to keep away or wear specially designed respirators, boots, gloves and suits.
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