The Gulf Oil Spill burn off fires create toxic gas. Chemist Wilma Subra and Scientist MacArthur Grant offered a video for Takepart.com highlighting the significant, long term risks of burning the oil in the Gulf. Subra and Grant conclude that burning off the oil, though an easy and inexpensive fix to the mounting 600,000 gallon problem, poses hazards to the atmosphere and inhabitants of the sea and nearby land.
Subra and Grant warned that burning off the oil creates gases, like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogrn oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene. The gases will, as Subra states "have negative impacts for a long time" on the fishing industry, sea life, and atmosphere. Takepart reports that nearly 5 million gallons of oil have been burned at temperatures well above 2,000 degrees and have created toxic clouds. Residents within Florida and the surrounding Gulf, monitor air quality through reports on the Weather Channel because, as one eye witness reports, the offshore burns are happening despite wind direction. No official air quality monitoring occurs at the burn sites because most sites 50 miles offshore, well beyond the Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction.
Subra believes that with "winds blow[n] toward the coast, the crude oil aerosol will compound the already unhealthy situation."
Workers at the spill site have suffered numerous health problems due to oil exposure including: respiratory issues, skin rash, throat and lung irritation, and increased risk of cancer. The concerns mount as hurricane season for the Gulf is underway.