BP Oil Spill: Hazardous to Humans on the Water?

Dr. Mark Abdelmalek goes with Sam Champion to assess the slick's health risks.

ByABC News
May 27, 2010, 1:55 PM

May 28, 2010— -- On Day 35 of the Gulf oil spill, I traveled with the ABC News dive team in the Gulf of Mexico as the doctor on board, reporting on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and BP's use of the dispersant Corexit.

Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion and Philippe Cousteau Jr., renowned environmentalist and oceanographer, dove into the Gulf for the first underwater look at what Corexit has done. BP has used this dispersant widely, despite safety concerns from the Environmental Protection Agency.

We had our own safety concerns as well. Just two weeks before his dangerous hazmat dive into the oil, Sam underwent Mohs micrographic surgery for a skin cancer on his left shoulder live on "Good Morning America." So part of my duties as I traveled with him were as a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon to assess his surgical wound before and immediately after his dives. This also meant extra precautions for Sam's dives; happily, despite strenuous and physically demanding conditions both above and underwater, Sam's surgical site was successfully protected from the oil, dispersant, and contaminated water throughout the day.

The same could not be said for the waters of the Gulf. With over 600,000 gallons of dispersant dumped in the gulf so far, no longer is oil confined to a slick sheen on the water's surface. Exclusive, underwater ABC News video shows oil on the surface is just that -- the surface of a growing cloud of countless underwater droplets of oil. In what amounts to be an environmental experiment, tiny oil droplets are now part of the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico, the lasting impact of which is simply unknown.

The oil leaking into the Gulf, composed of hydrocarbons -- some in the form of brown liquid oil and some in the form of volatile, toxic and flammable gases -- is harmful not only to marine life, but also potentially harmful to front line clean-up workers.