Doctor talks health risks from ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower

    9:50 PM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
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    • The aftermath Monday of the oil spill that happened in Mayflower on Friday, March 29. (Photo: Steve Payne, THV 11)

    MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) -- After getting a number of concerns from Mayflower residents, THV 11 News checked into the public health dangers following the recent oil spill.

    Doctors with State Health Department said their main concern right now is the evacuated neighborhood where the oil spill originated. Outside that area, they feel you're OK going about your daily routine in Mayflower. But some places, like Mayflower Elementary School, are still taking some precautions to protect our kids.

    "It seems like it's getting better each day but definitely very strong," Mayflower Parent Kala Francis said.

    Francis said dropping the kids off at school Monday came with a smelly reminder of Friday's oil spill.

    "I was concerned with them going out for recess, so I emailed the teachers and asked if they could please stay inside," Francis said.

    The mother of three girls found out later that students stayed inside Monday as a precaution. Maintenance crews also spent the day cleaning vents. There were also two rounds of air quality tests, which turned out negative.

    "Now certainly they might smell it, but again, brief exposures should not have any significant health concerns," Dr. William Mason said.

    Dr. William Mason, with the Arkansas Department of Health, said the real health concern right now is in the part of the Northwoods subdivision where the oil pipeline ruptured Friday and spewed out oil in yards and the street. Twenty-two homes were evacuated, and the all-clear is yet to come.

    "The Department of Health's primary focus is on the health of this neighborhood," Dr. Mason said. "That's what we're going to look at with the air quality monitoring samples, and we want to make sure the air quality is safe for them to breathe."

    There is no timeline yet for a safe return to the subdivision, but Dr. Mason said you're OK on a trip to the grocery store and your child's school. Still, parents like Francis, wonder about the long-term impact of all this.

    "You never know 20 years down the road what's going to happen," Francis said.

    THV 11's Max Seigle asked Dr. Mason about any long-term health effects from the spill.

    He said right now it's too early to say anything, with more air quality testing to come both in the affected subdivision and around town. But Dr. Mason said the likelihood is probably minimal.

    Dr. Mason did say there is concern about more vulnerable people who may have conditions like asthma in the general public. He said there is no need to go and see your doctor immediately unless symptoms arise.

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