Chennai oil spill: Doctors warn of serious health issues, including cancer, for clean-up crew

Chennai oil spill: Environment Ministry to issue show cause notice to Kamarajar port

New Delhi: The nightmare involving the Chennai oil spill seems to get even frightening and upsetting with medical doctors issuing warnings about serious health hazards on those who helped clean the toxic sludge following the collision between two ships last month.

As per reports, a team of doctors and members of the Healthy Energy Initiative, India, has urged the government to continuously assess the health of all those involved in the clean-up operation, including the crew, fisherfolk and residents.

In its report on the health impact of oil spill, the fact-finding team said that it found a number of workers and residents complaining of various health issues, including skin, eye and throat irritation, tightness in the chest, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.Read More »


Health concerns raised after Ennore oil spill

In the aftermath of the Ennore oil spill, a fact-finding report revealed that the health of those deployed for the clean-up operations, fishermen and residents, has been compromised due to handling the hazardous sludge without proper protective gear.

Chennai oil spill could cause health issues for clean-up volunteers, even cancer, says medical team

 Eye-irritation and respiratory symptoms were some of the immediate effects reported following the oil-spill

Photo : The News Minute 

CHENNAI: Three weeks after the massive oil spill cause by the collision of two ships near Kamarajar Port, a team of medical doctors have warned that those who helped clean the toxic sludge may suffer from serious health problems.

A fact-finding team, which included three doctors, met more than 50 people, who helped in the clean-up operations on February 7, 2017. “We came to know that many volunteers were participating in the oil clean-up process so we wanted to find out if there were appropriate steps taken for the safety of the volunteers,” said Dr Shruthee SG, a member of the fact-finding team.

“The clean-up workers and the fishermen reported increased acute toxic systems primarily that of eye-irritation and respiratory symptoms like throat irritation chest tightness and cough, mainly on the first two days after the oil spill,” said Dr Shruthee.

In the long-term, she warned that the chemicals in the oil could lead to cancer. “The most commonly occurring chemicals in the oil include Benzene, Toluene and Xylene (BTX). BTX are carcinogenic in human beings. Benzene is known to cause leukemia in humans, toluene can cause kidney and liver damage, and exposure to Xylene can lead to visual blurring, tremors, heart beat irregularities, paralysis,” observed Dr Amaran M, another member of the fact-finding team.Read More »

Doctors warn of health hazards for workers cleaning up oil spill

 Those engaged in the clean-up without protective gear have higher chances of being afflicted by cancer, a report said
  • Those engaged in the clean up without protective gear have higher chances of contracting cancer: Report
  • The team comprising three physicians had conducted a field study at Bharathi Nagar
  • Those engaged in the clean-up without protective gear have higher chances of being afflicted by cancer, a report said

CHENNAI: Raising an alarm over the hazards faced by workers involved in the massive clean-up operations following last month’s oil spill in the city, a fact-finding team has urged the government to closely monitor their health. The team released its report on Tuesday amid criticism over manual removal of toxic sludge from the seashore using buckets after the collision of two ships outside the harbour of the Kamarajar Port in Ennore on January 28.

The team comprising three physicians had conducted a field study at Bharathi Nagar, a hamlet in the vicinity of the oil spill on Ennore Expressway, on February 7. Those engaged in the clean-up operations without protective gear have higher chances of contracting cancer and health issues relating to the liver and kidney, said the report.

“Fire and rescue service personnel were not provided with safety gear on par with the Indian Coast Guard… Initially, local fishermen had suffered short-term effects such as irritation in eyes and respiratory problems on the first day of the spill,” said Amaran, a member of the team. Considering the health impact, the fishermen community, particularly children, must be assessed continuously during frequent intervals, besides the workers engaged in the clean-up, he added.Read More »

Spill clean-up workers exposed to long-term health risks

CHENNAI: The State government lacks a database of workers who were involved in cleaning up the spill, thus putting them at a greater long-term health risk as they have engaged themselves without any protective gear, warns a fact-finding report prepared by doctors.

The report, ‘Oil Spill in Chennai: fact-finding report on health impacts on clean-up workers, fisherfolk and residents in Ennore,’ charges the government with failing to come out with guidelines on how to clear the spill, which exposed many to carcinogenic chemicals like benzene, toluene and xylene.

The report, prepared by three doctors Dr S Sudarshini, Dr Shruthee SG and Dr M Amaran under the guidance of Dr Rakhal Gaitonde, senior scientist, Centre for Technology and Policy, IIT-Madras, highlighted how there has been little information on the nature of spill, petroleum oil and its derivatives that have toxic chemicals which cause damage to human health.Read More »

‘Monitor health of oil spill clean-up crew’

Fact-finding team says health of workers and fisherfolk must be assessed

The team found that many workers complained of illnesses : Bijoy Ghosh

CHENNAI: A team of doctors and members of the Healthy Energy Initiative, India, has called for a continual, long-term assessment of all those involved in the oil spill clean-up, including the crew, fisherfolk and residents.

At a press meet on Tuesday, members of a fact-finding team who visited Bharathiyar Nagar, Ennore, 10 days after the oil spill, released a report on the health impact of the spill. The team found a number of workers and residents complaining of skin, eye and throat irritation, tightness in the chest and cough, and some who had had headaches, nausea and vomiting. Members of the team said that while the health camp set up by the State government was managing ailments, it did not record baseline health information of the clean-up crew. In addition, the lack of information on the nature and quantum of the spill made it impossible for residents to take preventive and precautionary measures, they said.

“Crude oil contains volatile organic compounds including benzene, toluene and xylene, which are carcinogenic. Continuous exposure to these chemicals puts workers at a higher risk of developing diseases such as cancers and kidney and liver disease,” said S.G. Shruthee, a doctor on the team.

Speaking about the lack of adequate protective gear, M. Amaran, another doctor, said that they had found discarded, oil-covered gloves and shoes at the site and Corporation workers had to collect them without any protective gear. “There were varying levels of protective gear. The Coastguard had better gear than the fire and rescue personnel, while the fishermen had almost nothing. No one had respirator masks. Nowhere did we see best practices implemented. Even basic things such as cordoning off the site and evacuation of vulnerable populations was not carried out. No information was put out by the State,” said Shweta Narayan of the Initiative. The fire and rescue personnel were in t-shirts and shorts without full coveralls, said Dr. Amaran.

Arun Krishnamurthy of the Environmentalist Foundation of India said that volunteers who had been involved in the clean-up operation had come due to their goodwill to society and had worked in harsh conditions, and should have been sensitised more. “Not many people knew how to protect themselves. There were also a lot of curious onlookers who were unknowingly exposing themselves to hazards,” he said, adding that healthcare workers needed to be trained in responding to chemical disasters.

The team sought a baseline survey and long-term monitoring that would take into account any health changes in the workers, residents and children and said a team of doctors should be formed for this purpose. The report would be submitted to the Directorate of Public Health as well as the State government, they said.

The original article appeared in The Hindu on 22nd February 2017 – Read it here