Red Butte Creek Oil Spill.

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DEQ Home > Locations > Red Butte Creek Oil Spill > FAQs > My Health

Red Butte Creek Oil Spill

Frequently Asked Questions


How Can Crude Oil Affect My Health?

Exposure to crude oil may irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. It may cause dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, confusion, and anemia. Prolonged skin contact with crude oil may cause skin reddening, edema, and burning of the skin. Handling tarballs may cause an allergic skin reaction or skin rashes.

While most chemicals in crude oil have low toxicity in humans, a few of the chemicals can be quite toxic. Benzene and some of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogenic. Because of benzene's characteristics, it does not persist in the environment. Benzene exposures are of most concern immediately after a spill when it can dissolve into the water or transfer to the air. Benzene rapidly goes away in water and air over time. For these reasons, potential exposures to people are short duration, acute exposures.

PAHs have different properties than benzene. PAHs do not easily dissolve in water or go into the air. In a creek like Red Butte, PAHs are typically found stuck to soil and sediment and can remain for several years. The most likely place to find PAHs is in the sediment. In addition to crude oil, PAHs come from many other sources in an urban environment like Red Butte Creek.