Samet air, seafood 'safe': Official
- Published: 11/08/2013 at 05:27 PM
- Online news:
The air quality and commercial marine animals in the sea off Samet's Ao Phrao and nearby areas, affected by the July 27 oil spill, have returned to normal and contain no pollution, the director-general of the Disease Control Department said on Sunday.
Speaking in an interview with a radio programme, Dr Pornthep Siriwanarangsan said his department had collected air samples from the areas to monitor the concentration of benzene vapor and effects on human health every day soon after the leak incident.
Latest laboratory tests showed measured levels of benzene in outdoor air contained less than 0.1 parts of benzene per billion parts of air (ppb) (1 ppb is 1,000 times less than 1 ppm). Early tests conducted a few days after the leak indicated relatively high benzene, Dr Pornthep said, but they were still below 0.8 ppb.
He confirmed the air quality had returned to a “normal situation”.
Despite decades of research, scientists say it is still difficult to determine exactly how much benzene in the air will pose long term dangers to human health.
However, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a US federal public health agency, estimates that people can be exposed to air containing 9 ppb of benzene for up to two weeks, or 6 ppb for up to a year, without a "likely" increase in harmful health effects. But those guidelines don't cover the risk of cancer, according to ATSDR's website.
Samples of marine life such as fish, prawns, crabs and shellfish were also found not to contain heavy metal contaminants such as lead at levels that would pose any hazardous health effects, Dr Pornthep added.
“People who are still worried are encouraged to cook their fresh seafood before consumption because this way it will help eliminate heavy metals almost 100 per cent,” the DCD chief said.
Experts would continue to closely monitor the situation and collect air and food samples for laboratory tests for at least six months.
The Department of Fisheries, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and academics from various universities would inspect the environmental effects caused by the oil spill on underwater ecosystems for one year.
Dr Pornthep insisted tourism in affected areas could now resume as per normal.
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