Illnesses linked to BP oil disaster
Doctor attributes widespread sickness to toxic chemicals from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.
By Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera English.
Despite BP having capped its well in the Gulf of Mexico in July, the health-related after-effects of the disaster subsist.
Gulf Coast residents and BP cleanup workers have linked the source of certain illnesses to chemicals present in BP's oil and the toxic dispersants used to sink it - illnesses that appear to be both spreading and worsening.
Dr. Rodney Soto, a medical doctor in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, has been testing and treating patients with high levels of oil-related chemicals in their blood stream. These are commonly referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's).
Anthropogenic VOC's from BP's oil disaster are toxic and have negative chronic health effects.Dr. Soto is finding disconcertingly consistent and high levels of toxic chemicals in every one of the patients he is testing.
"I'm regularly finding between five and seven VOCs in my patients," Dr. Soto told Al Jazeera. "These patients include people not directly involved in the oil clean-up, as well as residents that do not live right on the coast. These are clearly related to the oil disaster."
Chronic health effects
Lloyd Pearcey, from Bonsecour, Alabama, worked on a BP clean-up team as a foreman for four months.
During that time, he collected oil-soaked boom and drove a bulldozer "filled with the tar balls and tar mats we collected. Other times we stood in the water in Tyvek suits putting out shore boom with oil all over us. The fumes got to you."
"I just got my results from the blood tests," Pearcey told Al Jazeera, "I have the chemicals of the oil and dispersants in my blood."
Pearcey had experienced many of the now common symptoms of acute exposure to BP's chemicals.
Dr. Soto is testing his patients, and said he has ample documentation attesting to the levels of toxins people are being exposed to.
Dr. Soto classifies two types of symptom groups: acute exposure that includes skin and respiratory problems; and a second, larger group of people with no symptoms, but who still have toxicity. He believes the pathways of exposure occur through air, skin, and contaminated seafood.
One of the more extreme cases he treated was a woman who developed acute respiratory problems after a visit to the beach.
"This is a young woman in good health, with good nutritional intake, no health issues, hates to take any medication, and ate only organic foods," he explained, "But shortly after going to the beach, where she was likely exposed to toxins, she developed respiratory illness and developed cancer within weeks. I think this was due to direct exposure to chemicals in the dispersants and VOCs."
According to the US Government, BP's oil disaster released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants, that are banned in at least 19 countries, to sink the oil.
Many of the chemicals present in the oil and dispersants are known to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage, altered renal functions, irritation of the digestive tract, lung damage, burning pain in the nose and throat, coughing, pulmonary edema, cancer, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, delayed reaction time, memory difficulties, stomach discomfort, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness, tiredness/lethargy, irritation of the upper respiratory tract, and hematological disorders.
While there are many examples of acute exposures like Pearcey and Dr. Soto's patient who developed cancer, his concern is that most residents who are being exposed will only show symptoms later.
"This latter group develops symptoms over years," he told Al Jazeera. "I'm concerned with the illnesses like cancer and brain degeneration for the future. This is very important because a lot of the population down here may not have symptoms. But people are unaware they are ingesting chemicals that are certainly toxic to humans and have significant effect on the brain and hormonal systems."
Dr. Soto is most concerned about the long-term effect of the toxins, because they have "tremendous implications in the human immune system, hormonal function, and brain function."
The toxic compounds in the oil and dispersants are "liposoluble," meaning they have a "high affinity for fat," according to Dr. Soto.
"The human brain is 70 percent fat," Dr. Soto added, "And these will similarly effect the immune cells, intestinal tract, breast, thyroid, prostate, glands, organs, and systems. This is also why this is so significant for children."
His particular concern for children involves toxins which cause "development of the depressed immune system and a resurgence of cancer."
Dr. Soto believes that for residents along the area of the Gulf Coast affected by BP's toxic chemicals, the solution is either to relocate or to engage in an intensive, long-term detoxification regime that includes intravenous detoxification programs.
Read the rest of the article on Al Jazeera's web site.