A California Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill has been formed, and an oversight hearing was held June 26 in Santa Barbara. See video of the hearing.  See updates on the recent oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara County near Refugio Beach. The community can email comments and questions to:  [email protected].

What’s in the oil, and what gets into the air?

Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons, made up of light, medium and heavy chemicals.

The light parts include air toxics such as benzene, xylene, toluene and ethylbenzene. Concentrations of these in the air tend to be highest during the first 24 hours of a spill. These toxics are harmful to breathe. Inhaling oil droplets and oil particles that may go into the air during cleanup can also be irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Some of these chemicals can cause short-term symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and respiratory symptoms. Long-term exposure to air toxics can cause cancer and other health effects. Anyone experiencing symptoms after exposure to these toxics should consult a doctor.

Air monitoring equipment at cleanup sites checks levels of air toxics for the protection of workers in cleanup operations.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website has additional information on air pollution and health concerns, particularly for oil spill cleanups.

The hydrocarbons in crude oil are also referred to as reactive organic compounds, which are involved in the formation of ground-level ozone, a principal component of smog.

For local information and current updates in the event of an incident, please see the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

For information on our complaint process see our complaints page.