Spreading the word on the oil spill

Agencies focus on environmental, health concerns of the BP spill off the Gulf Coast

Federal agencies are employing their Web sites and social media tools to release emergency response and health information about the leak from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of New Orleans, as oil neared land in Louisiana and appeared to be spreading toward Alabama and Florida.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, announced on its site that it is restricting fishing in federal waters affected by the spill for at least 10 days, and included a map of the affected area.

And IncidentNews, a site run by NOAA’s National Ocean Service, provides a regularly updated list of advisories, releases and aerial photos concerning the spill.


Related: BP asks for military tech to contain oil spill


The Environmental Protection Agency launched a Web site dedicated to the spill and the agency's response, detailing its air and water quality monitoring efforts, with fact sheets and FAQs about potential health issues.

EPA set up the air monitoring stations to determine the impact on air quality of oil set on fire — one plan for controlling the spill — as well as oil reaching land. The agency monitors levels of a number of chemicals potentially emitted by oil, including volatile organic compounds such as xylene, benzene and toluene, an EPA release said.

The agency also is using aircraft to assist in the collection of air sampling data and photograph the spill and surrounding area.

A roundup of government and BP responses to the spill is at http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com, which includes information on the response from U.S. Coast Guard, Homeland Security Department and other agencies, along with BP’s actions.

For social media users, a Facebook page on the response provides a rundown of information on the spill, including information on volunteer programs for people looking to help with the response.

And a White House blog, meanwhile, offers updates on the overall government response.

For a visual overview of the spill, NASA has satellite images of the spill as it moves toward the Gulf Coast.

And for broader medical questions, the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine’s site on oil spills and health offers a general perspective on health issues.

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