[Scientific basis of environmental health contingency planning for a coastal oil spill]

Young Min Kim, Hae Kwan Cheong, Jong Ho Kim, Jong Hun Kim, Kumsook Ko, Mina Ha
Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 2009, 42 (2): 73-81

OBJECTIVES: This study presents a scientific basis for the establishment of an environmental health contingency plan for dealing with accidental coastal oil spills and suggests some strategies for use in an environmental health emergency.

METHODS: We reviewed the existing literature, and analyzed the various fundamental factors involved in response strategies for oil spill. Our analysis included data derived from Hebei Spirit oil spill and used air dispersion modeling.

RESULTS: Spill amounts of more than 1,000 kl can affect the health of residents along the coast, especially those who belong to vulnerable groups. Almost 30% of South Korean population lives in the vicinity of the coast. The area that is at the highest risk for a spill and that has the greatest number of people at risk is the stretch of coastline from Busan to Tongyeong. The most prevalent types of oil spilt in Korean waters have been crude oil and bunker-C oil, both of which have relatively high specific gravity and contain volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals. In the case of a spill of more than 1,000 kl, it may be necessary to evacuate vulnerable and sensitive groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The government should establish environmental health planning that considers the spill amount, the types of oil, and the distance between the spot of the accident and the coast, and should assemble a response team that includes environmental health specialists to prepare for the future oil spill.

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