A Developing Health Crisis Across the Gulf Coast

Originally posted on IPSNews.net. Days after the BP oil disaster began, on Apr. 20, 2010, BP and the U.S. administration pledged that Gulf Coast communities would be made whole. One year later that promise remains unfulfilled: across the Gulf there is a developing health crisis as a result of the oil spill.

Our state and federal governments, and BP itself, must demonstrate the will to take actions promised a year ago.

The BP spill poured over 170 million gallons of crude oil and immeasurable amounts of toxic gases into the waters and atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico, in addition to the two million gallons of chemical dispersants used in the response operations, the full impact of which is yet unknown. For coastal communities exposed to these poisons, and that continue to find oil in their marshes and fishing nets, the health impact, we can be sure, will be severe and long term.

Oil and chemical exposure is widespread among residents across the U.S. Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen were exposed during the cleanup; families have been exposed along the beaches, bayous, and canals; entire communities along the shores and marshes continue to be exposed.

Oil exposure causes health consequences that range from chronic issues, such as acute headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, irritation of the eyes and throat, and vomiting, to more severe conditions, including reproductive problems, respiratory and nervous system failure, liver and kidney disorders, blood disorders, and several types of cancer. We know that the life-threatening volatile chemicals (VOCs) found in BP’s oil are carcinogens.

While the federal government has taken some important steps, such as reaching out to local residents through the Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and establishing the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, directed at compensating economic loss, coastal communities are still bearing the brunt of the costs of the disaster.

Read the rest of this op-ed on IPSNews.Net.

Stephen Bradberry is Executive Director of the Alliance Institute and Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.