Most of the risks associated with living near a refinery are environmental in nature. In this case, such risks emerge in or are simply transmitted through the air, water, soil along with biological food cycles to human beings. Most importantly, the causes of such risks and their characteristics are diverse. Living near a refinery exposes residents to several health-centred hazards that are closely related to the environment. It is vital to understand that health problems from an oil refinery can be difficult to determine since it takes a long period before they have an impact on residents (Hinge, 2004). Most of the health risks that will be characterized in this section arise from drilling, refining and burning oil. These are the major practices that happen within a refinery area.
These risks can be identified as short-term and long-term ones. Some of the long-term risks include reproductive problems and cancer. Breathing fumes or taking food or fluids that are contaminated with oil and gas from refineries can lead to bleeding, women miscarriages, birth complexities and stillbirths (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008). In most cases, the aforementioned threats for health can have notable warning symptoms, involving irregular bleeding along with abdominal pain. The other long-term risk is cancer whereas regular exposure to refinery oil and gas can lead to cancers of the human bladder, lungs and stomach (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008). What is more, the exposure causes leukemia in children. A good example is the case of Texaco Company that started to drill oil across Ecuador. Initially, cancer was not a known illness in the region, but this health concern emerged as a critical disease after four years for the residents living around the area (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008).
Furthermore, there are short-term risks linked to living near a refinery, including blurred vision, skin problems, ear infections, headaches, convulsions, damages to the liver and nose sores (Hinge, 2004). These risks are closely related to what the environment around the refinery reveals: for instance, hazardous fumes, noise and contaminated water. Air pollution from fumes and gases can result to asthma, pneumonia and other illnesses associated with the respiratory systems of human beings (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008). Headaches and ear infections result from noise that is emitted by machinery used in the refineries (Hinge, 2004). Consequently, there is a great need to find the ways for preventing or mitigating the health risks that are associated with living near a refinery.
Anecdotal evidence is used as informal illustrations that do not give typical meanings of concepts. In most cases, the term is applied in contrast with scientific evidence. Therefore, this term can be described as evidence that is collected without the use of scientific techniques. Moreover, the problem with an argument founded on anecdotal evidence cannot be called reliable since it is based on personal experiences rather than proved facts or a research procedure. On the other hand, only a scientific study leads to explanation of typical nature of concepts as contrasted to providing informal perceptions that can be difficult to use in critical reports (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008). One of the differences distinguishing a scientific research from anecdotal evidence is that the former aims at offering logical conclusions of a topic, while the latter does not provide any logical conclusion. Most of the anecdotal evidence is published in newspapers and magazines among other non-scientific platforms where there may be complete ignorance of research or trustworthy and reliable evidence (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008).
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Majorly, anecdotal evidence points to a completely opposite conclusion when compared to scientific research. In particular, the scientific research has been considered to use large and representative elements of a population, while anecdotal evidence involves small and potentially biased samples. At the same time, a scientific study has precise measurements that are performed in controlled situations, whereas anecdotal evidence includes casual observations conducted in uncoordinated situations. Moreover, the scientific exploration is considered to be careful in making causal links, while anecdotal evidence is centered on making easy casual connections. It follows that anecdotal evidence can be defined as unreliable, to a great extent.
Communities living around refineries tend to experience greater rates of morbidity as well as mortality. This circumstance has been associated with such factors as age, race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, and accessibility to healthcare services. In the recently conducted epidemiologic researches by Simkhovich, Kleinman and Kloner (2008), it has been found out that there are high and increasing levels of these indicators that are associated with morbidity and mortality in the above-indicated environmental conditions. Inhalation of pollutants in the environment tends to impact on heart rate, its variability, blood coagulability, vascular response and increase of atherosclerosis (Hinge, 2004).
On the one hand, socio-economic statuses greatly influence both morbidity and mortality rates. In this case, pollutants released to the environment by the refinery contain hazardous elements that are likely to affect low-income communities more seriously as compared to high-income ones. A good example is a study which indicated that tiny air pollution on the grounds of hazardous substances exposed in the air because of refinery affects both non-white and low-income societies more than they do affluent white communities (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008; Hinge, 2004). Apart from that, it can be deduced that the higher the concentration of poor classes around the refinery, the less the accessibility to healthcare services since they will have less to invest on health facilities (Hinge, 2004). This obstacle increases morbidity and mortality rates for people living around such regions. In fact, it has emerged as a common scenario in most cities across the world that, due to the high costs of living and low-income earning, most neighborhoods around refineries face sufficient problems because of environmental hazards (Simkhovich, Kleinman & Kloner, 2008).
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Furthermore, age is a critical factor that influences the level of morbidity and mortality for those who live near the refinery. Aging individuals living in such conditions are at a greater risk of contacting illnesses that come with pollutants than young individuals. Race is also another key determinant of morbidity and mortality rates in the fact that some races are strongly influenced by the refinery when compared to others. To illustrate, concentration of certain races, such as Hispanics and African Americans, around a refinery poses them to greater risks than concentration of affluent white people due to the fact that poor races are unable to access healthy lifestyles that may assist them to prevent such risks or minimize their effects (Hinge, 2004).
Multi-Criteria Integrated Resource Assessment (MIRA) refers to a widely used approach in facilitating stakeholder involvement in collaborative decision-making. The method has been designed in such a way that it enables and supports inclusive, transparent, along with explicit learning-based decision making process. MIRA is usually founded on several principles, including value judgments, context, data metrics validity, and stakeholders’ involvement along with the criteria and metrics (Stahl, Cimorelli & Chow, 2002). MIRA can be applied in the process of transforming decisions made for the refinery by enhancing a process that creates environmental index that is done using several indicators. Moreover, environmental elements will be easy to rank in order to have optional decisions concerning the operations of a refinery. MIRA will play a huge role in handling the analytical complexities in policy development. MIRA also applies data and models that help in detecting risks and uncertainties in decision-making (Stahl, Cimorelli & Chow, 2002). Additionally, the approach will assist in rank ordering and element comparison processes that will aid in decision-making concerning the refinery.
Applying MIRA assists in understanding that environmental problems are difficult and choosing the path to follow in solving them can also be complex. In this case, MIRA helps in involving diverse stakeholders, in line with scientific, economic and social information. Moreover, defining a problem and looking for the most vital ground is complex, but MIRA is of great assistance in this regard as well. In addition, decisions will be based on transparency, inclusiveness of stakeholders and learning.