This Morning Reads will have a theme. Two years ago the Gulf was oozing nasty, icky, oil. Like Hurricane Katrina, it’s an event that’s changed our lives down here in ways that are hard to explain and share. We’ve not fully recovered from either of these events. That’s not exactly what the Oil, the seafood, or the tourist industry wants any one to tell you. It’s not what state, local, and federal governments and agencies want you to know either.
But there it is. There is still devastation. There are huge problems. The folks that created the problems are not being held to account.
The stories I will share are human, animal, vegetable, and mineral. The BP Spill turned an entire ecosystem and way of living inside out. It’s being covered up by smiling people inviting you to our Gulf Coast Cities and Beaches in ads. It’s being hidden behind pictures of big heaping plates of staged seafood buffets. What’s hidden behind the ads and the promos is disturbing science, economics, medicine, and social upheaval. Here’s somethings you may want to know from our local news stations, scientists, and doctors.
On some Florida Panhandle beaches, swimmers can come off the beach with oil from the BP oil spill still on their skin — two years after that environmental disaster.
And, even after showering, the oil can still be on their skin. Only an ultraviolent light can show it.
Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman says that’s because leaked oil, mixed with chemical dispersant sprayed on the spill two years ago to break it up, is pooling in some shallow waters of Panhandle beaches.
And the mixture actually accelerates absorption by human skin. Seen under the ultraviolet light, it’s kind of creepy.
n August 2011 the Government Accountability Project (GAP) began its investigation of the public health threats associated with the oil spill cleanup, the results of which will be released this summer. “Over twenty-five whistleblowers in our investigation have reported the worst public health tragedies of any investigation in GAP’s thirty-five-year history,” Shanna Devine, GAP legislative campaign coordinator, told me.
Witnesses reported a host of ailments, including eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory problems; blood in urine, vomit and rectal bleeding; seizures; nausea and violent vomiting episodes that last for hours; skin irritation, burning and lesions; short-term memory loss and confusion; liver and kidney damage; central nervous system effects and nervous system damage; hypertension; and miscarriages.
Cleanup workers reported being threatened with termination when they requested respirators, because it would “look bad in media coverage,” or they were told that respirators were not necessary because the chemical dispersant Corexit was “as safe as Dawn dishwashing soap.” Cleanup workers and residents reported being directly sprayed with Corexit, resulting in skin lesions and blurred eyesight. Many noted that when they left the Gulf, their symptoms subsided, only to recur when they returned.
According to the health departments of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, from June to September 2010, when they stopped keeping track, more than 700 people sought health services with complaints “believed to be related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill.” But this is likely an extreme undercount, as most people did not know to report their symptoms as related to the oil spill, nor did their physicians ask. Like virtually everyone I have interviewed on the Gulf Coast over the past two years—including dozens for this article—Nicole Maurer’s doctors did not even inquire about her children’s exposure to oil or Corexit.
It will take years to determine the actual number of affected people. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), with financial support from BP, is conducting several multiyear health impact studies, which are only just getting under way. I spoke with all but one of the studies’ national and Gulf Coast directors. “People were getting misdiagnosed for sure,” says Dr. Edward Trapido, director of two NIEHS studies on women’s and children’s health and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “Most doctors simply didn’t know what questions to ask or what to look for.” There are only two board-certified occupational physicians in Louisiana, according to Trapido, and only one also board-certified as a toxicologist: Dr. James Diaz, director of the Environmental and Occupa-tional Health Sciences Program at Louisiana State University.
Diaz calls the BP spill a toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed.
From a George Washington Blog Post Crossposted at Naked Capitalism: The Gulf Ecosystem Is Being Decimated. This is a huge list of sources covering the many problems.
New York Times: “Gulf Dolphins Exposed to Oil Are Seriously Ill, Agency Says
Mother Jones: Eyeless shrimp are being found all over the Gulf
Pensacola News Journal: “Sick fish” archive
Agence France Presse: Mystery illnesses plague Louisiana oil spill crews
AP: BP oil spill the culprit for slow death of deep-sea coral, scientists say (and see the Guardian and AFP‘s write ups)
A recent report also notes that there are flesh-eating bacteria in tar balls of BP oil washing up on Gulf beaches
And all of that lovely Corexit dispersant sprayed on water, land and air? It inhibits the ability of microbes to break down oil, and allows oil and other chemicals to be speed past the normal barriers of human skin.
Just google up the Legacy of the BP Oil Spill and feast your eyes on the eyeless shrimp, lesions on fish, and all the dead sea mammals washing up on Gulf Cost beaches. This is from AJ.
“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”
Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.
Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants.
Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.
Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.
Fishermen, in particular, are seeing their way of life threatened with extinction – both from lack of an adequate legal settlement and collapsing fisheries.
One of these people, Greg Perez, an oyster fisherman in the village of Yscloskey, Louisiana, has seen a 75 per cent decrease in the amount of oysters he has been able to catch.
“Since the spill, business has been bad,” he said. “Sales and productivity are down, our state oyster grounds are gone, and we are investing personal money to rebuild oyster reefs, but so far it’s not working.”
Perez, like so many Gulf Coast commercial fisherman, has been fishing all his life. He said those who fish for crab and shrimp are “in trouble too”, and he is suing BP for property damage for destroying his oyster reefs, as well as for his business’ loss of income.
People like Perez make it possible for Louisiana to provide 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US.
But Louisiana’s seafood industry, valued at about $2.3bn, is now fighting for its life.
We actually see all this reported in the local media. We see the pictures. We live the effects. I completely admit to having scaled back my consumption of seafood since the spill. It’s just not the same and I don’t trust it. But, if you watch the ads that BP runs on TV stations around our neighboring states and listen to the deafening response by governments, you think it all just disappeared. They keep saying everything is safe and it’s all back to normal. Well, it isn’t. If you ask me, I think it’s just going to get worse.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?