Daily Archives: June 17, 2006

Barbados Pipeline Rupture: Consequences For People, Not For Shell Oil

"The Barbados Government has no power to fine or otherwise censure the large petroleum company that will not fix the leaks to the pipeline…

…because the Barbados Government has failed or refused to pass legislation that specifically addresses those acts which harm the environment and eventually the residents of Barbados."

On June 14, 2006, Barbados Free Press published Burst Shell Oil Pipeline – Oil Heading For Barbados Coast concerning long term soil contamination by Shell Oil's airport pipeline.

Yesterday, we received the following from a BFP reader, which we now publish unedited…

To whom it may concern:

The news these days regarding the spillage of aviation fuel from the Oistins-Airport pipeline is frightening. The farmers are right to be worried about their crops but the larger issue is what it is doing to the residents. We therefore provide the following research article for your consideration.

The Effects of Petroleum Products on Human Health

All Petroleum products contain Petroleum Hydrocarbons. There are several hundred types of these hydrogen and carbon compounds all found in crude oil. They include compounds such as benzene, toluene, xylene and n-hexane.

Human exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons is usually inhalation or ingestion, but it can also be absorbed through the skin. Hydrocarbons that are leaked into the soil usually filter down and find there way into the groundwater, or they bind to and remain in the soil. In Barbados and especially the subject area the groundwater is used for irrigation of agricultural crops. Therefore these toxic petroleum hydrocarbons are in the soil in which our children play, and as they reach the groundwater table, as they have been for the last few years they are eventually sprayed over the food that Barbadians eat and export and into the soil that yields it. From there dust and water runoff may carry these chemicals all over the area.

Exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons by inhalation include fatigue, headache, nausea, drowsiness and central nervous system (CNS) depression. Permanent CNS damage can occur from prolonged exposure. One type of hydrocarbon can cause paralysis, and in extreme cases death. Symptoms of ingestion also include difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Petroleum hydrocarbons can effect the blood, immune system, liver, spleen, kidneys, developing fetus and lungs, as shown by animal studies after breathing or swallowing petroleum hydrocarbon compounds. Benzene causes cancer (leukemia) in humans and is a carcinogenic, as are gasoline and kerosene based on studies on humans and animals. Many other compounds have not yet been studied.

Mink, otter and marine birds have all shown negative affects from small hydrocarbon exposure (1,2,3). Studies from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 show continuing sublethal effects on wildlife of long term exposures to toxic subsurface oils (4). The fuel leak in Barbados not only will have immediate adverse affects, but will also have long-term effects long after it is fixed. The longer it is leaking, the more toxic petroleum hydrocarbon chemicals are being built up in the soils and sediments of Barbados.

Since companies tend to consider economics more important than human health, perhaps it may be relevant to point out that the Regional Water Board in Los Angeles successfully fined Chevron for a jet fuel leak that contaminated the underlying groundwater.

However in Barbados although there have been promises made since before 1998 our government has failed or refused to pass legislation that specifically addresses those acts which harm the environment and eventually the residents of Barbados.

(The Honourable Elizabeth Thompson M.P. and her department, the Ministry of Physical Development and Environment published the State of the Environment Report 2000 and seemed to have overlooked the absence of environmental protection laws in Barbados.) Therefore the government has no power to fine or otherwise censure the large petroleum company that will not fix the leaks to the pipeline or compensate the farmers for the damage already done to their fields and crops. We call for immediate action and laws that will safeguard the future of the island that our children will inherit.

Sites to see for more information:

Toxicological Profile for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH)

Los Angeles Regional Water Board vs. Chevron

Articles:

[1] Leighton, Peakall, Butler. 1983. Heinz-Body Hemolytic Anemia from the
Ingestion of Crude Oil: A Primary Toxic Effect in Marine Birds. Science
220(4599), pp. 871-873

[2] Mazet, Gardner, Jessup. 2000. Evaluation of Changes in Hematologic and
Clinical Biochemical Values after Exposure to Petroleum Products in
Mink (Mustela vison) as a Model for Assessment of Sea Otters (Enhydra
lutris). American Journal of Veterinary Research 61(10 ), pp. 1197-1203

[3] Miller, Peakall, Kinter. 1978. Ingestion of Crude Oil: Sublethal Effects in
Herring Full Chicks. Science 199(4236) pp. 315-317

[4] Peterson, Stanley, Jeffrey. 2003. Long-term Ecosystem Response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Science 302(5653), pp. 2082-2086

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