Oil has now washed up on the beaches of three Gulf states. How dangerous is it?
Not very. At least that's what health experts say when it comes to encounters with small amounts of oil by beachgoers.
Government doctors say that if oil gets on bare skin, you should wash it off as soon as possible with soap or baby oil. Call the local poison control center if a rash or other problem develops. But doctors don't advise a visit to the emergency room just for getting slimed by a tarball or even swallowing a bit of oil-tainted water while playing in the surf.
CDC oil spill page: http://emergency.cdc.gov/chemical/oil_spill_gm_2010.asp
American Association of Poison Control Centers: http://www.aapcc.org/DNN/