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BP scaring the crap out of people: dispersants having laxative effect on Floridians

by Monica Davis

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Yesterday I was talking to my sister in Miami. She said that everybody is having lung problems and diarrhea so bad that the whole neighborhood reeks of it. She did not equate this to the use of Corexit or even the spill - but I do. She said it was quite breezy there yesterday - what I would call an "ill wind."

The residents are also experiencing major respiratory problems.  Given the fact that dispersants and oil are carcinogenic, and cause respiratory problems, these reports are not unexpected. Unfortunately for those in the path of the wind-driven dispersant and crude oil fumes, the laxative effect is the least of their worries.

Air reeking of petroleum and oil fumes, rain tainted by petrochemicals and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, combined with a predicted intense hurricane season and the possibility of  a 20 milewide, 10 food high natural gas field in the Gulf exploding with catastrophic results,  has become the perfect storm of disasters. 

It seems that the powers that be are afraid that if they let the dragon out of the bag, it might scare us into God knows what.  I am sure the vision of the looting and civil unrest behind Katrina are fueling a lot of this censorship and antagonism toward journalists.  However, all of this sitting around and waiting for Captain Ahab to shout, “That she blows”, is not helping the situation.

Mercenaries skulking on Grand Isle, barring reporters, enforcing news black outs.  As has been said time and again: this is America?  Miles and miles of oil clean up—with rolls of paper towels serving as the lead tool for remediation, is not something that inspires confidence. 

People are scared.  The “boots on the ground” activists and reporters on the scene say the climate is fearful and paranoid.  And, now, not only is it fearful, it is also illness-driven.  The diarrhea and coughing, and  are merely symbols of deeper injuries.

As of June 9, 2010, CNN reported that

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is aware of 71 cases of oil disaster-related illness as of Wednesday, said state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. Of them, 50 involved workers on oil rigs or who participated in cleanup efforts, and 21 reports of illness came from the general public. Symptoms reported by workers included throat irritation, cough, chest pain, headaches, and shortness of breath, he said. Eight workers were hospitalized, for an average of one day each….

The Louisiana Department of health is tracking oil spill related injuries, but keep in mind those are reported injuries.  Many of those injuries, as in what is happening in Florida, can mimic everyday illnesses—coughing, diarrhea, etc.  People, including medical professionals often believe that the coughing and other symptoms are short lived and prove that there is no real danger to exposure to dispersants.

A representative from the Louisiana Department of Health said, exposure

"…might cause people to have the symptoms we're seeing, but they're not long-term, and they're short-lived if you remove yourself from the exposure," he said. (CNN)

However, this flies in the face of what people experienced in the Exxon Valdez and other spill disasters, particularly because exposure includes contact with airborne dispersants which were sprayed from airplanes. How does one remove oneself from exposure to airborne carcinogens that are invisible, wind driven and which coat neighborhoods, trees, and buildings with a poisonous mist that seeps into homes and apartments?

How do we define “short-lived” exposure, or “removing yourself from exposure”, when the environment is saturated with toxic dispersant?  How do we define

"Right after the spill occurred, there was a tremendous focus on the potential toxicity of the oil. There was a question that if the oil contained substances that could potentially harm workers on a long-term basis, or on a severe short-term basis, and induce sterility or cancer or birth defects, then it would be unethical to undertake cleanup at all," recalled Middaugh, the state epidemiologist. (LA Times, 2001

Exxon Valdez

“Lawyers believe the actual number of injuries may be far greater than what has been reported so far.  Many, they said, have never associated things like headaches, cancer, rashes, liver and kidney problems to a chemical exposure that happened more than a decade ago.

"Chemical poisoning can cause . . . health problems that manifest as many different symptoms," Los Angeleslegal investigator Erin Brockovich said in a letter sent last week to public interest groups in Alaska, urging potential victims to come forward.” SOURCE: LA Times, 2001

So much so that many claimants in the Exxon Valdez oil disaster were denied compensation or were stalled because  their symptoms were not considered part of  oil-related damage to their bodies. The crap has hit the fan.  This whole thing stinks—from the stench of the oil, to the fumes from the dispersants, and, now, the stench of dispersant-generated diarrhea.