Dr. Susan Shaw, Director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute talks about oilspill

BP Slick

Disaster in Gulf - The Aftermath

Latest News

Disaster in the Gulf-5-18-2011

This post is from the Great Blog of Earth Island Journal

A House Divided

Louisianans, One Year After the Spill

Following the news about the Gulf of Mexico one year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster can be like reading “A Tale of Two Places.” The ocean, the wetlands, the fish, and the birds are recovering, according to some people. Others say the mess left at the bottom of the sea by the BP blowout threatens to wreak havoc on the ocean food web for years to come. Most people, we hear, are all right. Or, we are told, some are getting sick.

Which tale is true? For many Gulf residents, especially those from Louisiana, the state hardest hit by the spill, the answer might be Both.

The choice of what to say about the BP spill reveals a tension between the private narratives Louisianans tell themselves and their families and the public narratives they share with the rest of the world. Many Louisianans express frustration at the national media’s habit of showing images of oiled birds and dead dolphins; it only depresses tourist bookings and seafood sales, they complain. Other Louisianans say the pictures of destruction are necessary, a way to hold BP accountable for its actions; there’s no use jumping on what one local wit dubbed “The Streetcar Named Denial.”

The tough decisions about how to describe the spill reflect Louisianans’ split loyalties, which are divided between the fishing culture – the heart of the state’s identity – and the oil industry, the backbone of its economy. Since the 1930s, the two have been intimately connected: Many fishermen work the rigs in the off-season, and some of the best fishing spots are found near abandoned platforms, where sea life flourishes. In Louisiana, there’s nothing odd about celebrating the annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.

The tension is exacerbated by the widespread resentment over BP’s settlement process. Out of the $20 billion set aside for damage claims, only $3.4 billion has been disbursed by settlement czar Kenneth Feinberg. Some fishermen have been made whole. Others have received nothing. In New Orleans, dishwashers at restaurants unaffected by the spill have received $10,000 checks. Louisianans say the system is opaque, arbitrary, and just plain unfair. There are complaints about the sudden appearance of “Spillionaires.”

Then there’s the issue of the spill’s impact on the health of shoreline communities. Residents whisper darkly about a “Gulf Plague” – odd ailments and illnesses, especially among those involved in the cleanup effort. On YouTube, there are legions of videos featuring fishermen and cleanup workers describing their health problems. Yet not until this March did federal officials decide to launch a long-range study of Gulf residents’ health. While some Louisianans warn of a coverup, others snicker at the conspiracy theories of those they’ve branded “Gulf Truthers.” The pendulum of public opinion swings between paranoia and the glib assurances of the Pollyannas. One local calls it “analysis paralysis.”

The swirl of rumors, the logjam of lawsuits, the annoyance with national reporters who parachuted into the area on April 20 and left the very next day – all of it has cooked into a gumbo of cynicism. If the feelings of Louisianans a year after BP’s disaster seem contradictory, that’s because they are. They are contradictory just like the pain of life, the pain of a place and a people that are wounded. The stories of those wounds can be hard to convey to outsiders. Which is why it’s best to let Louisianans speak for themselves.

photo of a man speaking on a dock near fishing gear

The Sportsman

As the editor of a hunting and fishing magazine called Louisiana Sportsman, Todd Masson hears often from friends, relatives, and readers who are concerned about eating Gulf seafood in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. There’s no need to worry, he tells them. “Our fish, crabs, and oysters are no less safe to eat today than they were two years ago,” he wrote recently. As for those who might have made a killing in the BP settlement process? “If you actually came out ahead, then my hat’s off to you.”

Sport fishing is an essential thread in the fabric of Louisiana’s culture. We have 40 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands, built over millennia by the Mississippi River, and as such we are the nursery grounds for the Gulf. Our fishing is spectacular, and most weekend family gatherings involve something from our local marshes – fried, boiled, baked, or broiled. When commercial and recreational fishing was outlawed last summer in the wake of the spill, it isn’t overstating things to say that people grieved. It was like a pillar of our society had been severed.

Business is certainly down. The media presented so many misleading stories during the days of the spill that everyone in the country now has the perception that the lower fringes of Louisiana’s marsh are just dripping with crude oil. That’s obviously not the case. I had some national writers down in October, and for three days we fished the marshes all around the mouth of the Mississippi River – ground zero for spill impact – and they were absolutely astounded that we didn’t see one drop of oil.

The BP oil spill had absolutely no impact on the health of current-day seafood or the prospects for its progeny. Unrefined crude oil is a natural substance that is broken down, weathered and absorbed by nature remarkably quickly in a warm, dynamic system like that of the northern Gulf. To wit, there have been literally thousands of studies of Gulf seafood, and not one single sample has come back contaminated. After conducting these studies, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals determined a diner would have to consume nine pounds of fish, five pounds of oysters, or 63 pounds of shrimp every day for five years to reach any level of concern.

The Activist

Linda Leavitt’s Cajun roots go back to the 1700s, and though her family’s tradition of news reporting may not be as long, to Leavitt, whose parents both worked for NBC News, it feels equally strong. “My mother would say, ‘You go on down there, Linda, you get the story.’” Which she has, working as a citizen-journalist to gather photographs and video of the spill’s consequence, coordinating campaigns on Facebook, and watchdogging BP on Twitter. “You got to get the word out,” she says.

It was so sad, when you saw the oil coming over the boom, that we were so helpless engineering-wise to keep this out. That sediment can wash up with the tide, and the sad part is they know there are submerged tar mats. Hurricane season is 45 days away. That tar mat is going to wash ashore.

photo of a woman in a cypress woodland, holding an umbrella with 'save the gulf' written on it
Linda Leavitt

You can rage against the machine all you want, but the reality is you have a corporation that is incredibly negligent from a safety perspective. I’m a great believer in the truth. I’m a great believer in giving people the information so they can make the honest judgments. The more you cover it up, hide it, and whitewash it, then you get crazy-assed conspiracy theorists, everybody out there thinking the worst. That’s what happens in a closed society with closed information. That’s not the America I grew up in. I grew up in an America where information should be made public for public safety.

The dynamic with a lot of people who may be afraid to come forward and talk is fear that other people’s livelihoods are based on the oil companies and they don’t want to rock that boat, or shrimping is their livelihood, so they don’t want to rock the boat. There is a lot of that in small communities, fear of being the first one to come out and say something on the record.

Here’s the crux: There’s always been this unspoken acknowledgement between the oil industry and the fishermen, the Cajuns and other people who made their livelihoods on the water, that if something goes down, if something happens, we’ll take care of you. And that’s not happening. It’s a big disappointment.

The Philanthropist

When BP began spraying Corexit, Joannie Hughes, a single mom from Plaquemines Parish, started worrying about the rain. Could the chemical oil dispersant evaporate and return via precipitation? She had tests run, garnered some local news, then someone posted a sign on her front yard that read, “It’s not the rain water that’s going to kill you.” Frightened for her family, she decided the best she could do was to start a nonprofit, Coastal Heritage Society of Louisiana, to assist out-of-work families. “I backed off, right or wrong, and continued the humanitarian part of the work, because that’s where I felt I could at least make some difference.”

Murky Waters

“A deathtrap of mucus gashing through the water like flypaper.” That’s how Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, describes the effect of the oil and gas from last summer’s disaster on the delicate marine organisms that inhabit the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, Joye’s research team was among the earliest on the scene and the first to report huge underwater plumes …more…

It’s been an interesting road. We knew we couldn’t clean up the oil. We knew we couldn’t stop people from drilling. What we could do is feed some families that were suffering who had not been paid. Because legitimate claims have been denied.

We’re a bunch of moms, not a million-dollar organization. We delivered to one family and she asked if another family got a box of food. She immediately called the other family to come over and split the food, so instead of one family eating for five days, two families ate for two and a half days. That’s the kind of community it is. No one can ever say people here don’t help themselves, because they do. So far CHSL has given food box deliveries to over 300 families. We’re very good shoppers.

With saltwater intrusion, we’re losing the cypress at a phenomenal rate, and that’s pre-spill. So if we don’t start restoring by planting new ones, it’s going to be gone before my grandchildren are ever out there in a pirogue.

We are planting seedlings of cypress trees complete with nutria-resistant wire. You can plant a tree in someone’s honor, we send you a picture, GPS coordinates, and long term it helps fight erosion in our wetlands. We’re doing it all the way down in the marsh. We’re literally down there with our waders planting the trees and we love for volunteers to come down and help us plant them too.

I try to explain that we are part of that ecosystem. We haven’t been the best stewards, but we do count at least as much as the grass shrimp.

The Fisherman

Jason Adams has known only shrimping or working for the oil industry. He started fishing with his parents, he says, when “I was in diapers.” When the Macondo well blew out, Adams, a native of the bayou town of Galliano, worked briefly for BP doing cleanup work, but soon became resentful of how many jobs were going to guys from Houston. Today, he’s working as a tugboat captain. But, he says, “I’d rather fish.”

I worked it with my boat and let me tell you, I got into some of that oil with the Corexit. I thought I was going to die. Sick, can’t breathe. And the other side effect, I’m mentally sick because there’s such uncertainty. The postlarva of the white shrimp and the brown shrimp [are in danger] – once that contamination reaches the estuaries and all that, it’s a done deal. You know my little boy, sometimes he cries. He said, ‘Dad, what if I won’t be able to go shrimping anymore?’

photo of a man, thoughtful

It’s fine right now way up in the estuaries. But what’s it going to be like five years from now? The bottom line is that they sunk the oil. I don’t know how many millions of gallons of the Corexit they put in there.

I’m going to tell you what’s going to make that catastrophe – that first tropical depression. The first real southeast wind we had the other day, that’s when the oil came up on the beach.

A lot of the fishermen, it messed up their livelihoods. They can’t work, they’re sick. Their backs are against the wall right now. They tell me, ‘I won’t be able to work, but yet they want to come offer me $300,000, not for my livelihood, they’re offering me that for my life.’ The people that were in it, that got sprayed, that worked in that oil – they’re just buying their life.

Ninety percent of the people would rather be doing what they love to do. Fishermen are resilient people. You think a fisherman wants to collect money from BP and sit in his house? He’d go stir crazy. When it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. You’re doing what you want to do.

Karen Dalton Beninato is a freelance writer from New Orleans who has covered the BP oil spill for The Huffington Post. Her website is KarenDaltonBeninato.com. A resident of New Orleans and a Bayou Lacombe Choctaw Indian, Stacy Revere’s photography can be viewed at slrevere.photoshelter.com.

This story was partially funded through micro-donations via Spot.Us

NAD metabolism in Vibrio cholerae.

NAD metabolism in Vibrio cholerae. J W Foster and C Brestel Abstract Extracts of Vibrio cholerae were assayed for various enzymatic activities associated with pyridine nucleotide cycle metabolism. The activities measured include NAD glycohydrolase, nicotinamide deamidase, nicotinamide mononucleotide deamidase, and nicotinic acid phosphoribosyltransferase. The results obtained demonstrate the existence in V. cholerae of the five-membered pyridine nucleotide cycle and the potential for a four-membered pyridine nucleotide cycle. The data presented also suggest that most of the NAD glycohydrolase in V. cholerae extracts is not directly related to cholera toxin. Full text Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (619K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

The Mississippi Coast as photographed by me on Oct. 7, 2010

Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil

CNN Political Ticker


Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Year After the Spill, "Unusual" Rise in Health Problems More cases of nosebleeds, coughs could be due to oil exposure.

An oil spill cleanup boat is beached by the surf.
Oil-spill cleanup workers are swamped by a wave in Orange Beach, Alabama, in 2010.
Photograph by Tyrone Turner, National Geographic

Anne Casselman for National Geographic News Published April19,2011
Health issues that continue to plague Gulf Coast communities may be connected to the Gulf oil spill, experts say.
A year after the BP disaster, more people are reporting medical and mental health problems to nonprofits and doctors working in coastal areas.
"We're seeing patients who will come in and say my nose is bleeding all the time, my cough gets worse," said James Diaz, director of the environmental and occupational health sciences program at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
Itchy eyes, water eyes, nosebleeds, wheezing, sneezing, and coughing are all symptoms of exposure to crude oil, Diaz said. "We are seeing a lot of that.
"We know a lot about the acute health effects of the compounds in petroleum because it's a major industry here," he said.
And these problems have "been very very predictable."
Day and night, Marylee Orr fields calls from cleanup workers, fishers, and their wives as they connect the dots between their health and exposure to dispersants and crude oil. More than 1.8 million gallons (6.8 million liters) of dispersants—chemical agents used to break up oil—were dumped into the Gulf.
"If you look at the human health effects of the . . . dispersant, everything you read at the beginning [of] that factsheet is what I hear over the phone: chest pain, respiratory problems, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems," said Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, based in Baton Rouge.
"I would love to be able to say everything's OK and everything's recovered—but it's not that way yet."
"Unusual" Spike in Health Troubles After Spill
In the early months of the Gulf oil spill, more than 376 people in Louisiana—the majority of whom were cleanup workers—reported acute health effects typical of exposure to crude oil: headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cough, respiratory distress, and chest pain, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
By early September, more than 2,100 acute health complaints related to the spill across the Gulf and elsewhere had come in, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
A health survey of nearly a thousand coastal residents conducted by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a health-justice nonprofit based in New Orleans, found that nearly three-quarters of those who believed they'd been exposed to crude oil experienced an "unusual increase in health symptoms."
In two other surveys of Gulf coast residents also conducted by university public health researchers and sociologists, between 35 to 60 percent of respondents reported experiencing mental stress and physical symptoms.
By August, 52,000 people were participating in the oil-spill cleanup, which was managed by a joint federal-industry response team. However the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences didn't secure funding to start a long-term study of cleanup workers' health until several months after the spill began.
"The hardest things to predict are going to be what's going to happen years and decades away," Diaz said.
"We should be looking for evidence that exposure to these chemicals is causing damage at the chemical level to enzymes and causing damage at the molecular level to DNA."
For instance, a study of cleanup workers from the 2002 Prestige oil spill in Spain found increased DNA damage, especially among those who worked along beaches. Such genetic changes can sometimes lead to cancer.
"We know the famous adage: The dose determines the poison," Diaz said.
He added he's most concerned for Gulf cleanup workers who worked offshore, where they were exposed to raining dispersant and fumes billowing off floating mats of burning crude.
Oil Spill Created Anxiety, Depression
Preliminary research has also found Gulf residents have suffered psychological trauma. Already, two spill-related suicides have occurred.
"What we're finding is that there are increases in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, generalized anxiety disorder, and of depression," said Howard Osofsky, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Louisiana State University in New Orleans.
Osofsky is currently leading a study of residents in Louisiana's four most heavily impacted parishes for the Louisiana Department of Social Services.
Calls to mental health and domestic violence hotlines in the Gulf area have increased since the spill began. Admissions to women's shelters also have risen, Osofsky noted.
The majority of people in Osofsky's surveillance area have reported tiredness; lack of energy;  trouble sleeping; headaches; pain in their arms, legs, joints; stomach pain; and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
"These are the types of symptoms that can be related to anxiety and stress, but they can be medical symptoms that can be directly related to oil [exposure] as well," he said.
The same trend is appearing in Alabama and Florida, according to a February study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers compared the mental health of two Gulf communities, one in Alabama where the oil reached, and another in Florida that stayed oil-free.
"People in both communities displayed a significant amount of both anxiety and depression," said study leader Lynn Grattan, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in College Park.
"But it's economic impact—rather than oil reaching shores—which disrupted psychological adjustment and led to psychological health problems."
In other words, the mental health toll of the oil spill reached beyond the population living near oiled beaches, the study found.
Gulf Residents Already Resilient to Tragedy
However, Gulf residents' ability to cope in the face of past disasters—such as hurricanes—may help them weather this storm as well, Osofsky said.
"Individuals who've been able to cope may feel that they have greater strength, almost like they're being inoculated by their experiences to have inner strength."
University of Maryland's Grattan is currently studying how resilient people adapt and manage stresses associated with the spill.
"So perhaps in future we can learn from their adaptive behaviors and help build and facilitate the coping and adaption of everyone after spills," Grattan said.
Louisiana Environmental Action Network's Orr draws strength and hope from her community.
"It's not surprising that we're seeing what we are, because we've never had anything like this before," she said. "But we're resourceful people and we're very optimistic people.
After the double whammies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Gustav and Ike in 2008, "this is our third environmental disaster and, we hope, our last."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving me your comment.

AJ video

For all of us living along the Gulf Coast, did you have the worse "sinus infection" of your life this past winter? I sure did. My ears still hurt. Doctor looks at them and sees nothing there causing my ear pain. WHOA, then I came across this video. I am adding a comments box right below this. Please add how you are feeling if you are in any of the Gulf Coast area affected by the BP OILSPILL. Thank you! Leesa