21 February 2017
CHENNAI : A fact finding report released by a team of medical doctors from Chennai has confirmed that the health of the oil-spill cleanup workers, residents and fisher folk has been compromised due to the hazardous nature of the bunker oil that was spilt into the Bay of Bengal as a result of the two-ship collision at Kamrajar Port Ltd. in January. The oil-spill is a chemical disaster that requires training and expertise in its cleanup. Most of the personnel engaged in the spill cleanup were untrained volunteers who did not have personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, masks or boots – an absolute necessity when dealing with hazardous substances said Dr. Shruthee SG, a member of the fact- finding team that visited Bharathiyar Nagar on Ennore Expressway ?ten days after the oil spill.
Over 50 people including fishermen, policemen, fire and rescue personnel, conservancy workers, residents, women and children responded to a quick open-ended survey of the three-member medical team. The workers reported skin, eye and throat irritation, chest tightness and cough. Headaches, nausea and vomiting were some of the other complaints. “The most commonly occurring chemicals of the VOCs 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,” said Dr. Amaran M, another member of the mission.
The team noted that the response of the state agencies and the court in dealing with the health impacts was inadequate; though a health camp was set up it did not record baseline health information of the cleanup crew, nor was it equipped to deal with serious health repercussions. The lack of information on the nature and quantum of the spill, and advisories on the toxicity of the oil made it impossible for residents to take preventive and precautionary measures. It was shocking that no measures were taken to protect the safety of children — a school opposite the site of the spill was functioning despite students complaining of nausea and sickness. It is therefore recommended that a long-term health monitoring system is in place to detect onset of new symptoms and trace effects of these hazardous chemicals on cleanup workers, residents, fisher folk, women and children, said Dr. Shruthee SG. Other recommendations of the report included a full disclosure of information regarding the oil spill, assessment socio-economic-health burden and adequate compensation, development of necessary health infrastructure to deal with similar situations, training of health care workers for early identification and intervention, State and Central Pollution Control Boards initiated monitoring of air, water and soil quality in Ennore.
The full report is available for download on www.storyofennore.wordpress.com/resources/reports
For more information contact Shweta Narayan +91 8056024315
Organised by Healthy Energy Initiative, India.
Oil Spill in Chennai:
Fact Finding Report on Health Impacts of Oil Spill on Clean-Up
Workers, Fisherfolk and Residents in Ennore