Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

What to Expect from the Oil Spill and How to Protect Your Health

People can be exposed to hazardous substances related to the spill by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (food, water), or by touching them (skin). People should avoid close contact to the spill and fumes from any burning oil.

Air Quality:

  • Smell: People may be able to smell the oil spill from the shore. Exposure to low levels of these chemicals may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. People with asthma or other lung diseases may be more sensitive to these effects.
  • Burning oil: When responders burn some of the oil, some “Particulate Matter” (PM) may reach the shore. PM is a mix of very small particles and liquid droplets found in the air. PM may pose a greater risk for people who have a chronic condition such as asthma or heart disease.

If you smell gas or see smoke or know that fires are nearby, stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are monitoring the oil spill and its potential impact on the safety of seafood harvested from the area. Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not be concerned about the safety of seafood in the stores at this time. CDC will continue to work closely with the FDA to monitor food safety and will notify the public of any potential hazards. For more information about seafood and the oil spill, visit


Based on current findings, drinking water and household water are not expected to be affected by the spill. However, water used for recreation may be affected. Swimming in water contaminated with chemicals from the oil spill could cause health effects. For more information about water and the oil spill, visit

Follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings about the use of beaches and coastal water for swimming, boating, and fishing. For more information about beach safety, visit


Oil spill dispersants break an oil slick into small drops. For most people, brief contact with a small amount of oil spill dispersants will do no harm. However, longer contact can cause a rash and dry skin. Dispersants can also irritate your eyes. Breathing or swallowing dispersants can also cause health effects.

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to oil or dispersants, see your doctor. Health care providers can find more information on CDC’s oil spill web site at

Contact Us: - Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #