Yesterday in Venice, Louisiana, fishermen and local residents called a press conference to talk about the air. People complained of the oily smells when the wind is blowing off the water, and listed symptoms including headaches, nosebleeds, asthma attacks, cough, nausea, and vomiting. Those who had been out on the water said it was even worse out there.
I’m not surprised — I smelled it too. The smell that intermittently invades Venice and other locations along the Gulf Coast has a hint of creosote, but also the sickly smell of diesel fuel. It made my stomach turn, and I am not particularly sensitive to these things. It’s clear that there’s something in the air; the question is – is it harmful?
I went out late last week with an air monitoring device to look for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and benzene. It seemed reasonable to start with VOCs, especially benzene, because they are among the most toxic compounds that could be coming from the oil. I have blogged previously on the health effects of these chemicals.