Oil Spill Fumes vs. Gas Fumes

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Difference between Oil Spill Fumes and Gas Fumes

The recent BP oil spill has caused many to take a closer look at the damage to the environment and the Earth's inhabitants that the disaster has caused and the toll is quite significant. In fact, the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined, since many of the effects of exposure to oil and its fumes will only reveal themselves several years from now. Although not touted as an environmental disaster as the widely publicized oil spills are, exposure to noxious gas fumes can be just as hazardous as you will see from this comparison.

Hazardous Content 

Harmful substances in oil spill fumes include benzene which can cause a number of significant health problems, as you will see in the subsequent sections of this comparison article. That being said, the fume itself can be quite an irritant and can cause severe discomfort to the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. Gas fumes are no less harmful, although much of the thrust with regard to its dangers are focused on the effects after it has been burned, typically in a gasoline engine. Also included in the deep sea BP oil spill is methane. In fact, the “spill” is composed of 40% methane which causes global warming and dead zones in the seas. This is quite problematic in that BP normally burns off the methane (usually 5% in a normal oil deposit). Even so, gasoline and by extension, gas fumes, contain the same harmful element found in oil spill fumes as well–benzene–and inhalation of such fumes can cause pretty much the same health problems.

Effects On Humans

Both oil spill fumes and gas fumes can be quite toxic to humans when inhaled and they have been linked to a number of serious health issues. The benzene is the one that causes the most harm, and it has been identified as a major contributing factor to bone marrow depression and damage, hydroxylate production in the liver, and cellular damage that may lead to cancer and other diseases. Constant exposure to gas fumes can also worsen an existing case of asthma or lead to emphysema. In the case of methane, exposure is likely to be experienced in headaches, dizziness and symptoms in line with the product of methane, carbon monoxide.

Effects On Animals

Much of the harmful effects of oil spill fumes go undetected because most animals will simply move away from places where such fumes are. Even so, inhaling and ingesting these fumes can cause a number of serious health issues in animals as well, ranging from reproductive disorders to anemia. Certain species of fish are also susceptible to cancer with repeated exposure to oil spill fumes. Inhalation of gas fumes will cause many of the same effects in animals, although they likely wouldn't stick around to smell them.


Oil Spill Fumes

  • Can irritate the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs
  • When burned, can release large amounts of CO2 into the air
  • Contains numerous harmful compounds that can destroy cell membranes
  • May reduce animal habitats

Gas Fumes

  • Like oil fumes, also contains benzene that can be dangerous to humans in the short-term and long-term
  • Also contains toluene, xylene, and naphthylene, all of which can cause serious cell damage and eventual cell death

Which poison is more dangerous?
  • Oil Spill Fumes
  • Gas Fumes

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