Illness Plagues Gulf Residents in BP’s Aftermath

Dahr Jamail
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama, Nov 15, 2010 (IPS) – Increasing numbers of U.S. Gulf Coast residents attribute ongoing sicknesses to BP’s oil disaster and use of toxic dispersants.

“Now I have a bruising rash all around my stomach,” Denise Rednour of Long Beach, Mississippi told IPS. “This looks like bleeding under the skin.”

Rednour lives near the coast and has been walking on the beach nearly every day since a BP oil rig exploded on Apr. 20. She has noticed a dramatically lower number of wildlife, and said that many days the smell of chemicals from what she believes are BP’s toxic dispersants fill the air.

Yet her primary concern is that she and many people she knows in the area have gotten sick.

“I have pain in my stomach, stabbing pains, in isolated areas,” Rednour added. “The sharp stabbing pain is all over my abdomen where this discolouration is, it’s in my arm pits and around my breasts. I have this dry hacking cough, my sinuses are swelling up, and I have an insatiable thirst.”

Rednour’s recent problems are a continuation of others that have beset her for months, including headaches, respiratory problems, runny nose, nausea, and bleeding from the ears.

In response to the massive spill last summer that released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit dispersants – which have been banned in 19 countries – to sink the oil. The dispersants contain chemicals that many scientists and toxicologists have warned are dangerous to humans, marine life and wildlife.

A March 1987 report titled “Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity”, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), states: “The acute neurotoxic effects of organic solvent exposure in workers and laboratory animals are narcosis, anesthesia, central nervous system (CNS) depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and death.”

Several chemicals and chemical compounds listed in the NIOSH report, such as styrene, toluene and xylene, are now present in the Gulf of Mexico as the result of BP’s dispersants mixing with BP’s crude oil.

Captain Lori DeAngelis runs dolphin tours out of Orange Beach, Alabama.

“All my muscles hurt,” DeAngelis told IPS. “By the time I climb my stairs every muscle in my legs are in spasm. I’m coughing, I have a constant sore throat and hoarse voice.”

In addition to these symptoms, her memory is fading. “I have totally blanked out on a lot of important stuff,” she said. “I can hardly remember having talked to people who’ve interviewed me. That’s how bad it is. I’m having to bring pen and paper with me and write down everything so I don’t forget.”

Last month, Dr. Wilma Subra, a chemist and Macarthur Fellow, conducted blood tests for volatile solvents on eight people who live and work along the coast.

“All eight individuals tested had Ethylbenzene and m,p- Xylene in their blood in excess of the NHANES 95th Percentile,” according to Subra’s report. “Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP Crude Oil. The blood of all three females and five males had chemicals that are found in the BP Crude Oil.”

DeAngelis was one of the people tested.


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