Posted on | June 16, 2010 | No Comments
As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, many questions remain unanswered. What are the potential consequences—both physical and psychological—for the short-term and long-term health of residents of affected areas? Is it safe to swim in the ocean? Can we eat seafood from the Gulf? Will drinking water be contaminated?
The Gulf Coast spill already is considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Scientists and government agencies are struggling to predict all of the potential health outcomes for those living and working near the Gulf. At the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the independent, nonprofit Institute of Medicine (IOM) will host a public meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 22-23, to discuss the range of potential human health effects—both short- and long-term—resulting from the oil spill. Experts from the scientific community and academia, as well as stakeholders, will examine the lessons learned from similar disasters and discuss how to apply those experiences to the current crisis. In addition, participants will consider how to monitor the spill’s potential health effects now and in the future.
This initial meeting is one step along what certainly will be a long road to recovery. The discussion can provide a foundation for the government and others to build upon as they determine how to prevent future health problems and care for those affected. Whether we ever will know the full extent of the human health toll of the oil spill, only time will tell.