PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY: Residents advised to exercise caution if encountering tar balls on the beach


Last updated 10/8/2021 at 4:39pm

SAN DIEGO – Based on increased reports of tar balls washing ashore on North County beaches, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency is advising residents to exercise caution at local beaches and to avoid contact if tar balls are seen.

Natural geologic processes may sometimes cause tar balls to wash ashore, and it is unclear if the increased numbers are directly related to the Oct. 3, 2021 oil leak in Orange County. Visible oil has not been detected.

Because oil content may vary widely based on location, the health impact of the current situation is presently unknown and this warning is precautionary.

Although crude or processed oil can be carcinogenic and contact should be avoided, occasional brief contact is unlikely to cause significant or lasting health concerns for most people. However, some individuals are especially sensitive to certain chemicals which may be found in oil slicks or tar balls and may therefore develop skin rashes or other reactions as a result.

If contact occurs, the body area should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water or other skin-safe cleaners. Do not use degreasers, cleaning solutions or solvents as they may damage the skin further. If a significant rash or other reaction occurs, consult your primary care provider.


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