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Disasters & Extreme WeatherOil Spills

Gulf Oil Spill Impacting Louisianan Health

A survey by Louisiana State University professors has investigated the health impacts on Louisianan residents following in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

At the time of publication the report noted that it had been 85 since the “onset of the disaster and the flow of oil has just been stopped.” The authors focused on the coastal communities of Louisiana as they “are the most geographically proximate human settlements to the actual disaster site.”

“It is imperative that we begin work now to better understand the human impacts of this situation because the results are expected to be long-lasting and diverse,” said LSU Sociology Professors Matthew Lee, who worked with fellow professor Troy Blanchard in conducting the survey.

Professors Lee and Blanchard worked in conjunction with LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab (PPRL) in conducting a telephone survey beginning June 17, and interviewed more than 900 Louisiana residents near the spill site.

The summary of their results (below) is both worrying and entirely unsurprising;

1. Self-rated stress among respondents has more than doubled since the oil spill compared to a year ago.

2. Nearly 60% of the sample reported feeling worried almost constantly during the week prior to the interview because of the oil spill.

3. More than 8 in 10 respondents are worried about how their family, friends, and fellow community members will make a living over the next couple of years because of the oil spill. Seven in 10 are worried about having to move because of it. This in a context where 60% of the respondents have lived in their community all of their life, and another 20% have lived there at least 20 years.

4. The effects of this widespread psychosocial stress are substantial. Because of their worry over the oil spill, in the week prior to the interview:

a. 40% felt sick to their stomach ‘some of the time’ or ‘almost constantly’
b. 38% experienced headaches or migraines ‘some of the time’ or ‘almost constantly’
c. 34% experienced aches and pains ‘some of the time’ or ‘almost constantly’

5. Since the oil spill started, worry or concern over the oil spill also:

a. Prevented 46% from getting a good night’s sleep
b. Prevented 46% from being able to take care of their family as well as they would like
c. Prevented 43% from being able to focus on their usual job or work
d. Prevented 40% from being able to take care of their usual daily chores

“The indication is, at least at this point, that the human health impacts are real and substantial,” said Blanchard. “Right now, the data suggest that significant public health resources may be required to assist residents in the coastal parishes of Louisiana in dealing with the consequences of this disaster.”

Source: Louisiana State University (PDF)

Image Source: lagohsep via Flickr




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