Horizon Oil Spill Incident
Avoiding Negative Health Impacts
feeling or residue is present on skin, don’t swim in water
Officials Post Oil Impact Notice for all Escambia County Gulf beach
Due to the presence of oil products related to the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill, and the ways the oil is affected by dynamic changes in tide,
current, and wind, the Escambia County Health Department is posting an
Oil Impact Notice for the Gulf beach waters of Escambia County, Florida.
This notice will remain in place until Escambia County Gulf beaches are
no longer impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This notice
includes the beaches under the control of the Gulf Islands National
Seashore, the University of West Florida, and Perdido Key State Park.
An Oil Impact Notice means that if individuals see or feel oil products
on the beach or in the water – such as an oily feeling on their skin,
tar chips/balls that are too numerous to count or are buried in the
sand, tar mats, oil mousse or an oil sheen/slick on the water -- they
are advised to minimize potential negative health impacts and:
- Avoid wading,
swimming, or entering the water.
- Avoid contact with
oil and oily materials in the water or on the beach. Oil and tar may
be buried beneath the sand – dig in the sand with care.
- Avoid contact with
dead or dying fish and other wildlife.
- Young children (aged
five years and younger), pregnant women, and people with compromised
immune systems should avoid skin contact with the sand and water
that have been impacted. These individuals can walk on the sand with
shoes and protect their skin from oil.
- If experiencing
respiratory problems, leave the area and contact your physician, as
you deem necessary.
Oil Impact Notice signs
will be posted along the Escambia County beaches today, and will remain
until such a time as the oil spill no longer affects Escambia County’s
beaches. The signs are intended to replace the previous and more
temporary Health Advisories. Gulfside businesses, hotels and
condominiums are being notified and asked to post information at their
For most people, occasional brief contact with a small amount of oil,
while not recommended, will do no harm. However, some people are
sensitive to the chemicals found in the crude oil and petroleum
products. Those people may experience skin or eye irritation with even
brief contact with oil.
Individuals should also follow these tips for avoiding potential health
impacts from an oiled shoreline:
To minimize potential health impacts, individuals should always:
- If you feel an oily
residue on your skin after swimming or walking on the beach, wash it
off with a grease-cutting liquid dishwashing detergent and water. Do
not re-enter water or walk on beach areas where the oily feeling was
- Those near Florida's
Gulf Coast may detect an odor because of the oil spill. Some people
are more sensitive to these odors and may experience nasal
irritation and feelings of nausea. In combination with seasonal
allergies, such as sensitivity to pollen, or pre-existing
respiratory conditions such as asthma, some people may experience
more severe symptoms.
experiencing respiratory symptoms that are aggravated by the odors
from the oil spill should consider:
- Staying indoors
in air-conditioning and avoiding strenuous outdoor activity.
- If symptoms do
not improve, contact a primary care physician or other health
care professional for medical advice.
- Individuals who
have pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or other
respiratory illnesses should contact their physician if feeling
- Do not swim or ski
in areas affected by the oil spill, and if traveling through the
area by boat take precautions when hoisting the boat anchor. If oil
makes contact with the skin, wash it off with grease-cutting liquid
dishwashing detergent and water.
- Do not fish in oil
- Do not harvest or
eat dead fish, fish with oily residue, or fish that have a petroleum
- Avoid boating
through oil slicks or sheens.
- Prevent pets from
entering oil-contaminated areas.
oil/tar from the skin
Individuals should avoid
contact with tar balls. However, if an individual’s skin comes into
contact with tar:
Wash with grease-cutting
liquid dishwashing detergent and large amounts of water. Health
officials discourage the use of gasoline, kerosene or other solvents
to clean oil from skin.
If tar is not removed with
grease-cutting liquid dishwashing detergent, scrape off the excess tar
from your skin, apply another grease removing agent, such as mineral
oil, and rinse your skin with large amounts of fresh water.
If symptoms or irritation
occur, call a physician.
County Citizen’s Information Line at 471-6600 from 8:00 a.m. –
5:00 p.m. CDT (Monday – Sunday) or
- Florida Oil Spill Information Line
Residents should report
oil/tar to 1.877.389.8932 or #DEP from a cell phone.
The UF Sea Grant program has issued information about
from Florida's coast (128.1kb; pdf).