Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

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The coastal areas of the Mississippi Delta – already imperiled by the enduring effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – are once again threatened by disaster. Unlike the devastating natural disasters of 2005, the threat this time is man-made. On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed eleven crewmen. The resulting fire could not be extinguished and, on April 22, 2010, Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving its oil well gushing and causing the largest offshore oil spill in United States history. While the deeply human tragedy is already readily apparent – 11 dead and 17 injured – the full ramifications of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have yet to be realized. Beyond the economic and environmental impact, the Deepwater Horizon spill is likely to be an unprecedented incident for public health. Millions of gallons of crude oil have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico since the disaster began. According to the latest estimates, over 90 million gallons of crude oil have escaped from the deep water oil well – enough oil to fill nearly 140 Olympic size swimming pools. 78,000 square miles of federal waters are now off-limits to fishing and over 68 miles of shoreline have been polluted as a result of the spill. The coastal south depends on both its shoreline and the bordering waterways economically – through tourism and fishing. Undeniably, both industries will suffer with closed beaches and waterways. In turn, the livelihoods of many in coastal areas are on the line. When faced with competing needs during an economic downturn, many choose to postpone their health care needs in favor of other more urgent basic needs. , Depending on how long the effects of the oil spill are felt by industries and, in turn, impact individua... ... middle of paper ... ... of June 9, 2010, 17,500 National Guard troops have been activated to assist in the response. Countless federal agencies are involved in the cleanup response. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, OSHA, EPA, CDC, Department of Health & Human Services, among others, have responded to the disaster. As of June 9, 2010, a total of 24,000 personnel were involved in the cleanup process. The Deepwater Horizon disaster will undoubtedly provide valuable lessons – and frustrations – regarding interagency cooperation. While all of the agencies involved, ultimately, have the economic, safety, and public health interests of all Americans at heart, their approaches will likely be drastically different and will, at times, conflict. It is important that public health personnel learn to interact with their counterparts in other agencies.
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