Gulf Coast Residents Who Say They’re Sick From The Oil Spill Have Difficulty Finding TreatmentBy Rhonda Miller | Published 18 Apr 2011 09:05pm |
One year after the BP oil spill, the National Institutes of Health has launched a10-year study to look at the health impact of oil and dispersants. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports some in Mississippi say studies are good, but they’re sick from the oil spill now, and they’d like to have proper medical treatment
It’s unusual for James A. “Catfish” Miller to be sick. He’s a fisherman and he likes to be on the water. So after the oil spill, when the waters were closed to fishing, Miller started working for BP’s Vessels of Opportunity, called the VOO program.
"I was working for the VOO program on the front line out by Cat Island, Chandeleur and Ship Island. That was May, June and July," says Miller. "On the third week of that VOO program, I started getting nauseated, dizziness, blurry vision, vomiting, foaming at the nose and mouth, yeah, just foamin', just slobberin' and foamin'."
Miller, who lives in D’Iberville, went to the hospital. As soon as he could, he went back to work.
"On the seventh week of the VOO program, it hit me again," Miller says. "I passed out in my shower. I couldn’t go to work. I went back to the hospital. They told me I had anxiety attacks."
Now the National Institutes of Health has launched a 10-year study to look at the health impact of oil and dispersants. The lead investigator for the study, Dale Sandler, says the 55,000 people who take part will cover new scientific territory.
"The potential health implications weren’t really known," says Sandler. "There have been a few studies from prior oil spills suggesting that there could be short-term health consequences and nobody had really looked at what the long-term consequences were."
Sandler is based in North Carolina at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH . She says participants will be from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.
"We have lots of questions about breathing. And because of the properties of some of the chemicals in oil or the dispersants, we know that people could have neurologic type symptoms," Sandler says.
Wilma Subra is a chemist and recent advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency. She’s from New Iberia, Louisiana. In February, Subra released a study that includes of long list health impacts from the BP oil spill and dispersants. Her list includes dizziness, damage to liver and kidneys and damage to red blood cells.
Subra thinks the study by the National Institutes of Health is too limited because it only includes oil spill workers and volunteers, not other coastal residents.
"But it’s still a large population that’s not being included in that health tracking, and a large part of the population is desperate for medical care," says Subra.
One of those people wants to see medical care provided is cabinetmaker John Gooding of Pass Christian. Gooding has had several lung surgeries, but he carefully maintains his health and worked 12 to15 hours a day, before the oil spill. He did not work on oil spill clean-up. Gooding is also a musician.
"Here’s a story so sad and full of gloom…"
"On April 26, the first time I smelled the oil, I got extremely sick," says Gooding. "As soon as I smelled it, I started to shake. I was on a ladder 23 feet off the ground and I had to climb down. I got extremely nauseous. I got a headache. My lungs started to hurt. My throat started to burn."
Gooding and others had blood tests showing some chemicals related to oil. Gooding gave his test results to Attorney General Jim Hood at a Town Hall meeting in March. Hood said he’d look into the possibility of having the Centers for Disease Control or the State Health Department set up a medical unit on the coast. Last week, Hood said there’s no decision yet.
"I’m not sure. Because somebody hands you a blood test, I’m not an expert," says Hood. "I don’t know. So I gotta rely on our experts. So we’re gonna find out and get ‘em some help if we can. And if it’s not a danger, then our state agency, be it the state health department or through our office, to go down and tell people."
Gooding and others who are sick say they just want to get better - and they’d like to get their lives back. Gooding wrote a verse for Jim Hood:
"Jimmy Hood knows exactly who’s to blame. And I bet he’s gonna hold BP’s feet up to the flame. Send Kenny Feinberg home burying his head in shame,"
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