On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the sinking of the BP Oil Horizon. For exactly 86 days, approximately 4.9 million barrels of crude oil seeped into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving several harmful dioxins in its wake. This article intends to assess the potential for an increased risk of cancer for people living and working along the Gulf Coast. According to Schaum et al, the cancer risks were shown by a mathematical calculation of 6X10-8 for BP workers, as well as residents who consumed fish in the aftermath of the spill. It was also stated that residents in the area face a cancer risk of 6 X 10-12 as a result of inhalation.
Two main models were used by researchers. The first is referred to as the AERMOD Model Description. AERMOD is a plume model, which was essentially used to determine the quality of air concentrations in the area closely surrounding the oil spill. The model works by accurately simulating the dispersal of air pollutants, based upon a concept knows as planetary boundary layer turbulence structures. The HYSPLIT model basically evaluates the surface level air concentrations of pollutants at the shoreline. The HYSPLIT works through a system known as a three dimensional puff mode which cause pollutants to grow vertically and horizontally, and eventually determines the atmospheric fate and transport of the pollutants.
Of the two main models used, several important results were determined. Through AERMOD’s calculations, researchers were able to develop an oil-burn source for use in the screening analysis. The HYSPLIT model, which has far greater range in its assumptions, was able to determine that the most polluted waters were approximately 50 km west of Pensacola, Florida. From a quality of health standpoint it was determined that residents were not at immediate risk, including fishermen. This was determined because cancer-rate levels never exceeded 6X10-6, which is the minimum level required for health precautions to occur.
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