Photos: California Oil Spill Volunteers Appear Clueless About Petroleum Poisoning

Photos: California Oil Spill Volunteers Appear Clueless About Petroleum Poisoning
Environmental Pollution

Surely the photos below do not lie about the total lack of safety precautions on the California shoreline where the latest oil spill has occurred. Santa Barbara beaches are now the site of two catastrophic oil spills, the first having occurred in 1969. That one was partially credited for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, so bad was the damage to the seashore and aquatic ecosystems.

“The BP Gulf Oil Spill taught everyone that oil spills by their very nature can be extremely dangerous. The petrochemical toxicities both in the water and the ambient air ought to be taken very seriously. The crude petroleum VOCs (volatile organic compounds) alone can create especially perilous conditions to work in on a warm sunny day.” [1]

A lot has changed in the area of oil spill response since 1969. Certainly the BP Gulf oil spill was instrumental in showing the world how not to remediate an oil spill. The number of safety and health concerns which emerged from that spill were many and profound, and continue to this very day.

“The amount and degree of acute sickness and chronic disease which emerged from the BP Gulf oil spill was highly instructive. Unfortunately, many in the government and corporate sectors seemed to have skipped the most important lessons. For it was always those who worked or played closest to the GOM spill who suffered the most. Fishermen, oil rig employees, cleanup workers, unaware boaters and curious beachgoers all manifested the worst symptoms associated with petroleum poisoning and/or over-exposure to methane gas. [1]

Related: Dolphin Deaths in Gulf of Mexico Caused by Petroleum Exposure

What’s the Point of This Discussion?

The State of California ought to be monitoring every mile of shoreline north and south of Santa Barbara for any volunteer oil spill activity, in addition to mitigating the environmental damage. Toward that end, the appropriate jurisdictions ought to be policing it sufficiently so that folks can’t just walk up to the seashore in bare feet to remove buckets of oil from the beaches and waters. Such a lack of safety measures is setting up the state for a public health disaster down the road just like Louisiana is experiencing right now due to the lingering effects of BP oil spill.
William McConnaughey, 56, (R) who drove from San Diego to volunteer, carries buckets of oil from an oil slick in bare feet along the coast of Refugio State Beach

The primary function of government is to protect and safeguard the citizenry … sometimes from themselves. Many a do-gooder will magnanimously show up from the four corners of California to assist with this cleanup. Others will come from the surrounding states which have never suffered such a serious oil spill. Therefore, a certain likelihood of inappropriate (read: irresponsible and/or incompetent) volunteerism is to be expected.

“Therefore, perhaps the oil spill volunteers ought to school themselves first before they do their good deed. It appear that California government is AWOL where it concerns the Santa Barbara affected beaches so each person must look out for their own safety and well-being. The bottom line is that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure where it concerns the unavoidable toxicities produced by any oil spill.” [1]

By way of education, the following information surfaced during the BP Gulf oil spill concerning toxicities wherever dispersants like COREXIT are utilized. Regardless of whether COREXIT is being used in the current Santa Barbara oil spill, the Coast Guard will likely apply dispersants as that has been their standard operating procedure for many years.

The following toxicities comparison was posted at the EPA website during the BP Gulf oil spill as follows:

(1) 10.72 parts per million (ppm) of oil alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.

(2) 25.20 parts per million of dispersant (Corexit 9500) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.

(3) 2.61 parts per million of dispersed oil (Corexit-laden) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.

(Source: State of the Nation’)

Dispersants disperse the oil by effectively ‘disappearing’ it from view — quickly — so that it no longer poses a PR nightmare for the offending oil driller or guilty oil pipeline company or unresponsive government. However, it is still in the water, often sunk to the seafloor, or absorbed into the seashore so that it can no longer seen. “Out of sight, out of mind” as far as those most responsible are often concerned.

Volunteers collect buckets of oil during cleanup efforts at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California


Oil spill sites are very dangerous disaster areas. Just like 9/11 in New York City, many people like to just show up to help with the cleanup. Many of those NYC volunteers have suffered for years from various maladies; some of them quite incapacitating respiratory ailments that are associated with 9/11 Toxic dust syndrome. The high concentration of VOCs* and methane gas found at oil spill sites can likewise precipitate an array of debilitating symptoms and serious illness.

*The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are associated with all crude petroleum oil spills:

  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Xylene)

Takeaway: Being ignorant of the health dangers of an oil spill is no excuse for diving right into the perilous work unprotected.


[1] State of the Nation