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OIL STORAGE TANKS
ABANDONING OIL TANKS
AGE of OIL TANK
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
BURIED OIL TANK ADVICE
BURIED OIL TANKS, FINDING
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
DEFINITION of HEATING & COOLING TERMS
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-BOILER
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-FURNACE
DIRECTORY of OIL TANK EXPERTS
FILTERS, OIL on HEATING EQUIPMENT
FIRE SAFETY CONTROLS
FLOATING UP OIL STORAGE or SEPTIC TANKS
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FUEL OIL TYPES & CHARACTERISTICS
FUEL UNIT, HEATING OIL PUMPS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GAUGES ON HEATING EQUIPMENT
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
HEATING COST FUEL & BTU Cost Table
HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS
HEATING OIL TYPES & PROPERTIES
HEATING SYSTEM NOISES
HOME BUYERS GUIDE TO OIL TANKS
NOISE CONTROL for HEATING SYSTEMS
NOISES COMING FROM WATER HEATER
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS FROM HEATING SYSTEMS
OIL FILTERS on HEATING EQUIPMENT
OIL FUEL TYPES & CHARACTERISTICS
OIL FILL PIPE LEAKS
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
SOOT on OIL FIRED HEATING EQUIPMENT
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
THERMAL TRACKING & HEAT LOSS
VIDEO GUIDES: Heating System Videos
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WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Heating oil & crude oil exposure limits & health effects: this article describes the exposure limits for home heating oil and for crude oil exposure in both exposure limits for oil fumes and exposure limits for contact with heating oil or crude oil. To understand the health risks associated with exposure to home heating oil, it is useful to distinguish between exposure to the fuel itself or its fumes (discussed here) versus exposure to the combustion products of the fuel, such as oil burner exhaust, flue gases, smoke, soot, and the contents of those materials. Exposure limits are discussed for heating oil, fuel oil, diesel fuel, and crude oil.
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Workers in the Gulf region are at risk from exertional heat stroke, and there can be short-term effects from fresh oil-spill fumes: affecting the eye, neurological system, and skin. Short term lung, kidney, and liver functions may be affected. Media reports and studies of oil spills do not address effects of long term or chronic exposure to crude oil spills, but sources indicate that as oil breaks down in water it becomes less toxic over time. - Reuters
OSHA's position and that of other expert sources such as the ATSDR is that modest typical residential exposure to heating oil fumes is a nuisance that may not pose a hazard to a healthy individual. Reuters reportedthat "Health and Human Services Department officials told a Congressional haring that little is known about the health impacts on people of oil spills." (Reuters, op cit. 6/23/10) We recommend monitoring results of "Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: An Institute of Medicine Workshop", June 22-23 2010. - Instutite of Medicine.
While the long term environmental effects of crude oil spills such as the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill are not yet clear, more immediate complaints of oil fumes ashore in Louisiana have been reported. Local health officials in that state have warned people with respiratory illness, asthma, or similar conditions to avoid breathing oil fumes and to "stay indoors".
The oil and oil fume toxicity, safety and MSDS data below provides a summary of possible health concerns from short term, chronic, or long term exposure to refined oil spills such as No. 2 home heating oil. We include links to Material Data Safety Sheets for Crude Oil MSDS as well as home heating oil MSDS where we provide more health related details.
In understanding the health risks associated with exposure to home heating oil, it is useful to distinguish between exposure to the fuel itself or its fumes (discussed here) versus exposure to the combustion products of the fuel, such as oil burner exhaust, flue gases, smoke, soot, and the contents of those materials. Additional details about oil tank and heating oil safety hazards are at OIL TANK SAFETY.
Fossil Fuel Combustion Gas Hazards for Home Heating Oil: at COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS we discuss the hazards from burning fossil fuels to heat buildings or to make hot water. Discusses are the most likely hazards from combustible fuels, oil and gas, in or around buildings. Our quote below is from an MSDS example MSDS for No. 2 Fuel Oil from Hess Corporation.
Below we turn to the exposure hazards to un-burned home heating oil liquid and fumes.
Air Quality & Crude Oil Spill Fume & Smoke Hazards
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) has reported the following possible hazards from exposure to oil spill fumes, smoke, or contaminated food, water, and oil dispersants: - quoting from original source 17 June 2010, http://emergency.cdc.gov/gulfoilspill2010/what_to_expect.asp
People can be exposed to hazardous substances related to the spill by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (food, water), or by touching them (skin). People should avoid close contact to the spill and fumes from any burning oil.
Watch out: If you smell gas or see smoke or know that fires are nearby, stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are monitoring the oil spill and its potential impact on the safety of seafood harvested from the area. Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not be concerned about the safety of seafood in the stores at this time. For more information about seafood and the oil spill, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/ucm210436.htm
Drinking water and household water are not expected to be affected by the spill. However, water used for recreation may be affected. Swimming in water contaminated with chemicals from the oil spill could cause health effects. For more information about water and the oil spill, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/oil_spill/information_residents.htm#5.
Follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings about the use of beaches and coastal water for swimming, boating, and fishing. For more information about beach safety, visit http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doc/2931/542551/.
Oil spill dispersants break an oil slick into small drops. For most people, brief contact with a small amount of oil spill dispersants will do no harm. However, longer contact can cause a rash and dry skin. Dispersants can also irritate your eyes. Breathing or swallowing dispersants can also cause health effects.
If you are concerned that you have been exposed to oil or dispersants, see your doctor. Health care providers can find more information on CDC’s oil spill web site at http://emergency.cdc.gov/gulfoilspill2010.
Air Quality & Home Heating Oil Liquid & Fume Hazards
Our field investigation experience as well as a review of a responsible oil company's No. 2 home heating oil MSDS [Material Data Safety Sheet from HESS Corporation] and oil spill guidelines from several sources including the US EPA and state regulatory agencies provide anecdotal and other evidence that the elderly, infants, or people who are in fragile health, as well as people who suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity, allergies, asthma, and some other respiratory conditions may experience more serious symptoms including asthma attacks and other complaints.
The following is quoted from ATSDR's Public Health Statement for Fuel Oils and represents the best summary of this question that we have found:
Several U.S. states including the Connecticut department of health provides a fact sheet on home heating oil spills that includes the advice that homeowners should avoid both breathing heating oil fumes and skin contact with heating oil. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services offers similar advice.
The US ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) also provides a Public Health Statement for Fuel Oils and related documents including Heating Oil Exposure Health Effects and ATSDRs section on Heating Oil Chemical Properties.
Here we summarize the basic information provided on MSDS sheets (material data safety sheets) for home heating oil. This information is a condensation of the full MSDS information on heating oil - readers should be sure to review the full home heating oil MSDS.
See MSDS Sheet for HOME HEATING OIL for our full article on this topic, including exposure limits for exposure to home heating oil in liquid or gas form.
A typical No. 2 home heating oil MSDS document provided by Hess Corporation includes the hazard identification information for home heating oil that we list below. The same document provides information about toxicity levels - the exposure necessary for serious medical effects to be at risk or to actually occur.
Readers should also see OIL TANK SAFETY where we describe the flammability and explosion hazards of fuel oil fumes and where we provide an extensive list of hazards and safety concerns for fuel oil. Also see OIL TANK LEAK ADVICE for our detailed advice on handling leaky oil tanks as well as links to oil tank leak regulations for U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Readers should also see BOILER NOISE SMOKE ODORS for a discussion of flue gas leaks, smells, and hazards from the combustion products of oil burning heating appliances.
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