June 30, 2010

Residents and tourists lured onto Florida beaches despite health warnings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 12:19 am

Author’s note: I cannot believe people are letting their kids play in this crap! Check out some of the videos through the Examiner link…Social Darwinism at its finest.

It appears that some Florida officials are more worried about the state’s economy than the health of residents and vacationers.

Despite health advisory signs that have been posted as early as June 10, Florida Governor Charlie Crist told CBS News on Saturday the water is safe and people should not worry. “It is safe,” Crist declared, “there isn’t a toxic nature to it that is detrimental to anybody. It is much more of a nuisance than anything else at this point.”

The Escambia County Health Department lifted a health advisory on Pensacola Beach on Friday, June 27 on the advice of a beach official and against the advice of a federal environmental official, according to the Pensacola News Journal. But the advisory was not lifted for Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Fort Pickens beach, immediately west of Pensacola Beach or Johnson Beach on Perdido Key.

These seemingly contradictory moves have sent mixed signals to an already ill-informed public and consequently, many residents and tourists were lured onto the beaches – and into the water, last weekend. Before the weekend, 400 people had already sought medical care for upper or lower respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation after trips to Escambia County beaches, said Dr. John Lanza, director of Escambia County Health Department.

“I only went into the water up to my ankles. That’s as far as I wanted to go,” said Joe Chambers, 28, of West Pensacola as he scrubbed off oily residue from himself and his son, Ethan, 4, in the public showers at Casino Beach. “It doesn’t smell like the beach. It smells like a gas station. There are no fish in the water. There’s nothing alive in the water. I don’t know how public officials can just look at the water and make a call to reopen it for swimming.”

“What you can’t see in the water may be more dangerous than what you can see, said Dick Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida. …It can’t [be]seen and it poses health risks… [W]ater samples taken Thursday in the surf zone, where most people swim, at Casino Beach, reveal[ed] small amounts of alkanes, hydrocarbon molecules found in oil”, he said. Small amounts are not harmful. But the heavier, complex molecules in the tar balls, “are toxic,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns, “people, including pregnant women, can be exposed to these chemicals by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (water, food), or by touching them (skin). If possible, everyone, including pregnant women, should avoid the oil and spill-affected areas.”

Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns:

Oil is a complex mixture of chemicals and metals that can be toxic depending upon the amount and duration of exposure and the susceptibility of the exposed person. Children are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of certain substances due to factors like higher respiratory and metabolic rates and systems that are still developing, like the nervous system. Because some agents are heavier than air, they accumulate close to the ground, right in the breathing zone of children. Some agents can also be absorbed through a child’s skin. Children are in a critical period of development when toxic exposures can have profound negative effects, and their exploratory behavior often places them in direct contact with materials that adults would avoid.

In the aftermath of an oil spill, particular attention should be paid to physical safety, water contamination, and exposure to substances or situations that could potentially harm children.

Despite these and other warnings, people like Elaine Fox were not discouraged from visiting the beaches. “We’ve played in the water. No one is sick, and we’re all going back out today,” said Fox, among 50 that came to the beach as a group from Family Church in West Monroe, La. “I think a lot of this is nothing but media hype.” She spent time photographing her pregnant daughter-in-law Christi Fox, 25, who lounged in the surf draped in a white cloth covering a white bikini. A few tar balls stuck to her bathing suit as she walked back to their condominium.

While it may not be the place of the government to prevent people from swimming in the Gulf – that should be an individual decision – it is the responsibility of the state to fully inform and warn people of the health risks of doing so. It is utterly irresponsible for the Florida governor to announce on national television that the water is safe.

Read more, get links and video here: Madison Independent Examiner – Residents and tourists lured onto Florida beaches despite health warnings

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