Alicia PhD

Alicia PhD
New Hampshire, United States
September 08
Alicia has a PhD in Experimental Pathology and, after having worked in a genetics lab for her dissertation, now edits scientific manuscripts full-time from the comfort of the White Mountains. Alicia is also a writer, contributing health commentary and articles on disease and anatomy to many online publishers. She upkeeps a number of blogs devoted to her interests in public health and science.


JUNE 17, 2010 5:40PM

The oil spill - politics, economics, ecology, and health

Rate: 6 Flag

So this oil spill, it doesn't seem to be going away. huh

Oiled Brown Pelicans - IBRRC

Photo credit: IBRRC

When the Deepwater Horizon rig first exploded in April (yeah, it was that long ago already) it was one of those "damn, did you see this, feel bad for the guys" moments, but right from the start politics were at play - to drill or not to drill. Oil or...well...less oil - there aren't really a lot of alternatives right now. And that's political, too.

It's also about economics. Oil is big money - and the company that happens to be to blame, or at least the head honcho of accountability, is not an American company that answers to the U.S. government. It's British Petroleum, who happen to be how many Brits pay their bills via pension funds. BP not giving dividends or losing a lot of money and stock value over a huge FUBAR faux pas is like what losing the auto industry would've done (and even did) to the U.S.and 401k market. And big oil has a big stick to swing, as shown by the head of the House Energy and Commerce subcomittee, Republican Barton from Texas (big oil country) apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward about President Obama's push to make the company pay the lawsuits via escrow. He apologized to BP for the U.S. making them clean up their own mess! That's like your mom apologizing to you for making you wipe your own butt when you're 16! More politics. And yet even more economics.The money set aside to ensure BP pays for its mess via suits filed by fishermen, local clean up crews, and state goverments doesn't count a second fund setup to pay for the oil rig works, who are now out of work, both directly because of the rig mishap and because of the fallout from it - a moratorium on new drilling agreements. BP, and possibly TransOcean (who owned the rig) and Haliburton (who poured the concrete that failed) screwed it up for everyone.


Oiled Brown Pelican being Cleaned - IBRRC


Photo credit: IBRRC


Then there's the ecological disaster. Louisiana struggled to get the Brown Pelican back. Their state bird was extinct from their state in the 1970s, now has nesting grounds on the islands along the marshlands in the Gulf - the same marshlands that are now dead and covered in sludge. Eggs are being stepped on by cleanup crews - birds are being cleaned and nursed at sanctuaries. The live to dead ratio is nearly 1:1. Dolphins are washing up dead on beaches, stained that awful reddish brown color of crude. And the beaches themselves are stained - affecting plant growth, erosion, and tourism - ecology and economics wiped out in one fell swoop - swoop, something the pelicans can no longer do.

And then there's health - the health of the animals who have to live in the mucked up water clouded with toxic dispersants that make it look cleaner from the surface than it really is - and we eat some of these animals. Though the FDA has said Gulf seafood is safe, but only in the areas not closed to fishing. And they have had to ramp up testing because there is every expectation that, at some point, the seafood will be unsafe. You can't pump hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the water and expect the fish, shellfish, and the plants they eat to stay pristine.




Beyond food safety though is a very real health problem for residents and clean up crews. The smell of the oil spill induces nausea and headaches. Anxiety and apprehension produce similar problems. The toxic sludge can cause skin rashes and long-term exposure to dispersants can cause organ damage. Chemical and aspiration pneumonia are just the beginning for some who will battle breathing and respiratory problems because they either live or volunteer where the oil is wreaking havoc. 

It is a huge problem in so many ways, one that will likely become background noise, just something we get used to seeing and paying for.  Just a big oily stain on our world.

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I am thinking of the irony.. .. fossil fuels caused by mass deposits of decomposing animals from some major enviro disaster millennia ago. Now those very same fuels are cause another level of enviro disaster and more deposits of dead animals. Many animals and plants and bacteria will die, some will migrate and adapt, and some will stay and mutate or adapt.
Another level of irony here is the battle over middle eastern territory, oil and war. The british are largely responsible for this in their colonial decision making and false territory. Our "pensioners" have been picking up the bill paying for the mistakes of history for a long time.
Alicia-your assessment is so honest! I wish the politicians beholden to big oil would also have to pay for the cleanup! R
Alicia, you always do a great job at presently your argument and this post is no exception. The satellite pictures are downright eerie. I just wish people knew how many oil spills there are throughout the world. It's ridiculous.
Shell Oil has polluted the waterways so badly in Nigeria, some communities are starving to death because they can't fish and the oil has contaminated the land so badly, they can't grow crops either. Wish I could rate you twice.
Mr. Obama is one of the most scapegoated leaders in history.
part cause he's black (of course actually half-African,)
mainly for the scapegoating for profit.

He inherited the give to the banks prompted by the fear show

(in lieu of the repo agreements that bailed the Chilean banking
O'Grady / / U.S. What We Can Learn From
Chile's Financial Crisis )

and the monumental tax breaks earmarked mostly for the wealthiest Americans, all borrowed from abroad.

This is what the demagoguery is for:
(Don't look now, but you're about to lose your health reform
(plus Social Security and Medicare are even under attack by
Republican candidates.)

"Republican efforts to undermine Barack Obama’s health reforms are intensifying"

Economist, June 24, 2010

There are plenty folks who sold there houses at the top of the market who'd move to Las Vegas or Broward County in a heartbeat
but where they're over 50 they surely have already exhibited a
health risk factor of some kind and so, unless health reform is
assured, they know they will not be covered for precisely what
they need care for.

This is so even though everyone uninsured ends up in the county
hospital, their cost shifted, built into everyone's premiums already.
has been all along