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Environmental Justice, Coursework Example

Pages: 2

Words: 545

Coursework

Describe the environmental justice situation, including when it occurred or if it is current.

The environmental justice situation/issue, I chose was the BP oil spill off the gulf coast of the US that occurred in the summer 2010.  Although many oil firms have long records of operating in off-shore environments, an unplanned explosion in an oil rig not only lead to the immediate deaths of roughly 12 workers, but it also produced one of the most damaging oil spills in the US since the Exxon Valdez disaster in the 1980s.  Although the spill has long since been cleaned up ( at least the oil has stopped flowing into waters), the public health implications of the spill are just beginning to manifest.

Discuss who is/was facing unequal risk or exposure, including the cultural or SES correlations.

Although the spill is undoubtedly affecting many people in the Gulf area, the spill has had a disproportionate effect on those individuals in lower socioeconomic classes.  Indeed, two of the major industries involved in the spill, oil workers and fisherman, are traditionally part of lower classes.  Many of these workers worked directly with the oil spill in the water or were part of cleanup efforts on the shore- often times without adequate protective equipment.  According to studies carried out by the CDC, more than 12,600 workers are involved in the cleaning of oil from areas adversely affected by the oil spell (Solomon and Janssen, 2010).   The main question in the future will be: will the general population, and these workers specifically, suffer from exposure to extraneous oil and chemicals.

Describe what they are/were exposed to, providing supporting information on the level of risk and using scholarly sources such as ATSDR and journal articles as necessary.

According to the medical literature, there are a number of conditions that workers and fisherman are exposed due as a result of the oil spill. Indeed, according to initial reports, more than 300  individuals sought medical care for headaches, chest pain, respiratory distress, cough,  nausea, and dizziness (Solomon, G.M. & Janssen, S., 2010).  These symptoms are often times a function of exposure to hydrocarbons and hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide (Solomon, G.M. & Janssen, S., 2010).  In addition to these conditions, there were also numerous dermatitis and secondary skin infections.

Explain the risk-management goal, and provide suggestions/examples for communicating the risk and engaging the stakeholders

The main risk management goal in this situation is to take care of the short-term and long-term health threats to the workers and fisherman.  There are a number of key stakeholders that must be communicated to.  First, the main stakeholder group is the workers on the oil rigs and the workers who helped to clean up the oil spill.  These individuals must know that as a result of their work, they may be exposed to additional health risks that could result in a number of short- to long-term health issues.  The second main group that needs to be communicated is to local health workers who may or may not have experience in dealing with many of these illnesses (Schmidt, 2011).

References

Solomon, G.M. & Janssen, S.  (2010). Health effects of the Gulf spill. New England Journal of Medicine.  304(10), 1118-1119.

Schmidt, C.W. (2011).  Study to examine health effects in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill cleanup workers.  Environmental Health Perspectives.  119(5), 204-211.

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