The Exxon Valdez and BP Oil Spills: A Comparison of Initial Social and Psychological Impacts

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the 2010 BP oil spill were the largest and most ecologically damaging releases of oil in North American history.This research provides a comparison of the social and mental health impacts of these two major technological disasters. Random samples of residents of Cordova,Alaska, and south Mobile County, Alabama, were collected 5 months after each event.A standardized indicator of event- related stress was used for both samples.The analysis revealed similarly high levels of initial psychological stress for survivors of both disasters.The strongest predictors of stress were family health concerns, commercial ties to renewable resources, and concern about economic future, economic loss, and exposure to the oil. Drawing on more than 20 years of research on the Exxon Valdez disaster, we discuss implications for residents of Gulf Coast communities.

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