Washington (AFP) June 9, 2010
Seventy-one people in Louisiana have suffered health problems that officials believe are linked to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the state's department of health and hospitals said Wednesday.
Fifty of those who have reported symptoms including throat irritation, cough, shortness of breath, eye irritation, nausea, chest pain and headaches, worked on oil rigs or were part of the effort to clean up the spill.
Thirty of the workers said their illness came on after they were exposed to emulsified oil and dispersant, said the report, which is updated weekly.
Eight people -- all of them rig or clean-up workers -- have been hospitalized with spill-related illnesses, the report said.
All hospitalizations were short, "generally one day," it said.
Twenty-one reports of illness came from members of the general public and were overwhelmingly related to odors from the oil spill.
Most of the members of the public who reported symptoms were at home when they fell ill, the report shows.
The most common symptom associated with the spill was headache, followed by nausea, cough and throat irritation.
The Louisiana state health authority began gathering reports of human exposures to oil from the slick or chemicals used to disperse it four weeks after the April 20 explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon that caused the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The report was compiled using data gathered from emergency departments, outpatient clinics, doctors' offices and the Louisiana poison control center.
earlier related report
In the June 1-7 poll, Florida voters opposed by a 51 to 42 percent margin increasing the amount of offshore oil drilling, a 48-point swing from the 66 to 27 percent support for drilling in an April 19 survey just before the blast that triggered the Gulf spill.
Both surveys were by Quinnipiac University.
The latest poll also showed President Barack Obama's job approval in the state has slid to 40 percent, his lowest point ever in Florida and down from a 50 percent approval rating April 19, right after his call for increased offshore drilling.
"Clearly, the gulf oil spill has changed the way Floridians view offshore drilling and almost certainly is responsible for the drop in President Obama's approval rating," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "
"Voters disapprove 54 to 37 percent of the way Obama is handling the spill."
They survey also indicated that Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who quit the Republican Party to run as an independent for Senate, would edge Republican Marco Rubio 37 to 33 percent in the three-way contest, with 17 percent for the likely Democratic Party nominee, Kendrick Meek.
earlier related report
"BP is working closely with governments and private sector experts to stop the flow of oil and to minimize the damage to the environment," BP chief executive Tony Hayward said in an introduction to its global outlook report.
"We are throwing everything we have at mitigating this disaster. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, and those whose livelihoods have been disrupted.
"We are determined to set right what has gone wrong and to learn from the tragedy. Eventually, we will succeed, and eventually, this disaster will lead to a safer and better energy world."
BP has faced fierce criticism over its handling of the worst oil spill in US history, particularly from US President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, the group said Wednesday that worldwide energy consumption -- of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and hydro power -- sank by 1.1 percent last year because of the global economic downturn.
That was the first drop since 1982 and the largest in percentage terms since 1980, BP said in its 'Statistical Review of World Energy 2010'.
"Global economic recession drove energy consumption lower in 2009 -- the first decline since 1982," the group added.
"As with the economic contraction, the decline in energy consumption was concentrated in OECD countries and the territory of the former Soviet Union."
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) refers to the Paris-based grouping of leading industrialised nations.
earlier related report
By late next week with the new enhancements in place, engineers should be able to suck up as much 28,000 barrels of oil per day, boosting the current daily haul of 15,000 barrels, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said.
Additional refinements over time to the containment system will capture even more oil as they are put in place.
"We're only at 15 (thousand) right now we'll be at 28 (thousand) by next week and we'll be well beyond that when the new system comes in place, that will be in seven to 10 days beyond that," he said.
"We're building capacity. If we get this thing up to 28,000 barrels a day, that's where we want to be."
Allen described in detail the elaborate new system which could be the first step of several improvements designed to "take leakage almost down to zero."
"What we're going to have basically is a pumping capability at the surface connected by a flexible hose down to the riser that continually offloads to tankers," Allen said.
"The pipe at the bottom of the riser pipe will go back to the wellhead," he said.
"At that point we might be able to move from a containment cap to an actual hard cap, which would be able to reduce everything that' coming out," Allen said, "which means we could take leakage almost down to zero."
BP last week installed a containment cap on the well which initially collected only about 6,000 barrels per day of oil, but which has steadily increased over the past days.
The company has still not been able to determine how much oil is spewing out of the broken well. Videos images posted online by the company show black crude flowing heavily from the wellhead and around the edges of the cap.
Some independent experts have suggested the oil flow rate has increased since the failed "top kill" operation -- BP's effort last month to clog the leak, which the company warned risked increasing the flow of oil by 20 percent.
Allen said at a press briefing that he has ordered a "flow rate task group" led by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to go back to the drawing board and work up new estimates on how much oil is gushing from the wellhead.
"They're going to be looking at that again," he said.
"We'll just continue to refine the estimates. I'm not going to declare victory on anything until I have the numbers," he said. "Show me the numbers," he declared.
The British energy giant is meanwhile drilling two relief wells which should be ready by August, and which will enable the company to permanently plug the leak.
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