Tracking Oil Washing Ashore on Beaches
Find out which beaches are unaffected by the Gulf oil disaster, and what to do if you encounter spilled oil.
Tracking Oil Washing Ashore on Beaches
The map above tracks the history of closures, advisories, and notices by county for beaches that have been affected by the oil spill. The tar ball icon indicates counties with any historical or current beach actions related to the oil spill. The sand pail icon marks counties that have not had official closures, advisories, or notices due to the oil spill. Please click on each county or parish to view the history of beach oil spill closures, advisories, and notices within that county.
This information was acquired from official government websites, supplemented with phone calls and e-mails with government officials in charge of beach management. NRDC regularly updated oil-spill related beach closures and advisories on the map above through September, 2010, though the spill will continue to impact these areas well into the future.
If you spot oil on your beach:
Oil contains a mixture of heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and lead and various hydrocarbons that can cause skin and breathing irritation, as well as cancer. Breathing in oil vapors or sea spray from dispersed oil in wind-blown waves can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and eye and throat irritation. Direct skin contact can cause various kinds of rashes, including generalized skin irritation, or something known as "folliculitis" from oil-clogged skin pores.
It is important to recognize that oil is a hazardous material and that we need to protect ourselves against potential health impacts from coming into contact with any oil or tar balls that continue to wash ashore.
- Avoid areas where oil can be seen or smelled. If you see or smell oil, leave the affected area. Oiled areas should be particularly be avoided by:
- » Young children.
- » People with asthma or other respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
- » People with a compromised immune system.
- » People with a hypersensitivity to chemicals, particularly hydrocarbons.
- » Pregnant women (some of the chemicals in oil have been linked to miscarriage, preterm birth, and low birth rate).
- Avoid any direct skin contact with oil, oil-contaminated water and sediments.
- If any oil makes contact with your skin, wash it off immediately with a grease-cutting detergent and water.
- Do not fish, swim, or engage in water sports in the oil spill-affected waters. State and federal authorities are monitoring conditions and will advise you where these are. If traveling through the area by boat, use rubber gloves when hoisting the anchor.
- Avoid contact with dead or dying fish and wildlife.
- If you are experiencing health symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or throat irritation, leave the area immediately. If the symptoms do not resolve within a few minutes, make sure to seek appropriate medical attention.
- If you experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or other serious symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
- Disaster in the Gulf: NRDC's Full Coverage of the Gulf Spill
- Go Below the Surface of the Gulf Oil Disaster: An interactive guide to the spill's effects on the ecosystem
- Testing The Waters: NRDC's Annual Beach Health Report
- Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Beach Closures, Advisories, and Notices as of July 27, 2010 (PDF)
- NRDC on the Ground: Video and Photos
- Offshore Drilling Factsheet
- Analysis of EPA's Air Quality Monitoring
NRDC's staff blog
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last revised 7/8/2010