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May 5, 2010 6:31 PM by Melissa Canone

DHH & DQ: Protect Yourself From Chemical Exposure

The Louisiana departments of Health and Hospitals and Environmental Quality are urging residents as well as oil spill response workers and volunteers to take the proper steps to protect their health from possible exposure to chemical, physical and biological hazards caused by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

At the same time, officials are reminding citizens to stay clear of any areas where oil is present or where clean-up efforts are taking place unless they have been properly trained and are directly involved in the cleanup.

"We know there are a lot of people who want to help protect our fragile coastline and fisheries during this difficult time. We just want to make sure that those efforts are done safely," DHH Secretary Alan Levine said. "The federal government has well-established guidelines for people working in these areas. Those are in place to protect your health and should not be sidestepped."

Officials with DHH and DEQ are working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide guidance on health risks and hazards related to working near or with contaminants from the BP oil spill. Officials also continue to monitor air and water safety, and will continue to monitor during the cleanup to ensure the safety of people within the affected areas.

"Taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves from the possible health risks while working to protect our coast and our residents is vital," said DEQ Secretary Peggy M. Hatch. "Our goal is to make sure that those engaged in the cleanup are armed with the knowledge to avoid any possible dangers that may occur when coming into contact with the oil spill."

DHH and DEQ officials urge oil response workers to take the following precautions:

All responders should receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration-approved training regarding hazards involved with the cleanup activities for a minimum of four hours;
When coming into contact with contaminated plants, animals, water or soil, workers should avoid skin contact, and oral cavity or nasal passage exposure to oil spill products using appropriate clothing, respiratory protection, gloves and boots;
Responders should follow guidelines provided by OSHA (
http://OSHA.gov/oilspills/index.html
), their employer or their volunteer agency with regard to the use of respiratory equipment;
All responders employed by BP should follow the specific guidelines provided to workers and contractors conducting oil spill response.

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