ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Crude Oil Toxins and Petrochemicals Affect Your Health

Updated on June 10, 2010

Any oil spill is detrimental to the surrounding environment, but the crude oil toxins that escape into the atmosphere pose a possible health risk for individuals living in and around the affected area. Health risks are most prominent in the very young, the elderly and those who suffer from asthma.

What Are Toxins and Where Are They Found?

Toxins are manmade compounds that are poisonous to the human body. Unfortunately, toxins are found everywhere from the food we eat to the air we breathe. Our bodies are fairly efficient at disposing of toxins within the body to keep us healthy. When toxins are released unexpectedly into the atmosphere in large amounts, such as with an oil spill, the human body is less apt to adequately handle those toxins and likely to fall ill.

Human Exposure to Petrochemical Toxins

As a general rule, humans are exposed to petrochemical toxins on a daily basis. They permeate the air and are used in the manufacture of insecticides. These insecticides are ingested when humans eat non-organic fruits and vegetables. While most consumers simply rinse fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking, unless contaminated food products are washed with soap and water, the petrochemical toxins remain and are ingested. 

Fruits and vegetables contain petrochemicals toxins from insecticides.
Fruits and vegetables contain petrochemicals toxins from insecticides.

After an oil spill, however, contamination is more concentrated and widespread. Oil remediation workers are at a particularly high risk of sickness due to their continued and direct exposure to petrochemicals. In addition, the toxins quickly disperse into the air and are inhaled by individuals living in coastal cities and, if the wind is right, those living several miles inland as well. 

The Impact of Crude Oil Toxins on Human Health

Crude oil toxins have a clear and adverse effect on human health. After exposure to these poisonous substances following an oil spill, individuals have reported such adverse health effects as:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Scientists have known for years that the toxins found in petrochemicals suppress the efficiency of the human thyroid. This explains the fatigue many individuals feel following exposure to airborne crude oil. Suppressed thyroid function can also lead to weight gain.

Crude oil toxins can give you a headache.
Crude oil toxins can give you a headache.

Minimizing Crude Oil Exposure

The only way to truly avoid the unpleasant side effects of being exposed to petrochemicals is to avoid exposure as much as possible. If you live in an area where an oil spill has recently occurred, keep your windows and doors tightly closed to avoid outdoor air from entering your home. Purchasing and using an air purifier will help dispose of dangerous chemicals within the air. Make sure that the air purifier you choose comes equipped with a UV light to also kill harmful bacteria. 

Purchase a simple surgical mask and wear it when you leave the house and when you are driving in your car. Although this won’t prevent you from inhaling airborne petrochemicals, it will reduce your overall exposure. 

Stay away from contaminated beaches at all costs. Although it may be tempted to see the level of destruction, directly exposing yourself to drying oil puts your health at risk. If you happen to come into direct contact with oil, wash it off immediately. Do not bring oil-contaminated objects or clothing into your home. 


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)