Levels of manganese, a neurotoxin, in the cove and in a nearby creek were 10, 20 or nearly 30 times above the EPA’s safety standard for tap water.
By Lisa Song and Shruti Ravindran
When a broken pipeline spills oil into a residential neighborhood, the most immediate health concerns are those caused by volatile chemicals—airborne toxins that leave people complaining of symptoms like headaches and nausea and worrying about long-term problems like cancer.
But crude oil also contains small amounts of heavy metals that rarely evaporate into the air. Instead, they stay with the oil as it spills onto the ground and into waterways. These compounds, which include mercury, manganese, nickel and chromium, are toxic at high doses, and some, like arsenic and lead, can damage the nervous system even at relatively low doses. Yet little is known about the potential health risks to people who live near oil spill sites.
In Arkansas, regulators are testing for heavy metals in the city of Mayflower, where more than 210,000 gallons of Canadian oil spilled on March 29. But at this point there are still more questions than answers.
Sickened by Exxon Oil Spill, Victims Face Confusion of Officials and Doctors
What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess
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