When Is Enough, Enough?
For nearly five months, the BP oil disaster has consumed the minds of millions of people worldwide. In addition to the horrific impacts that the crude oil and chemical dispersants have daily on the environment and the economy, a fatal threat has quietly slipped by the public’s proverbial radar. The harm dealt by this silent enemy is beginning to creep into the lives of those living and working in the Gulf. The problem has been lurking in the Gulf since the first days of the BP oil spill and now has the potential ignite a disaster unlike any this country has ever seen.
Who is this masked bandit? What is this mysterious force that has the potential to outpace the spill’s catastrophic events thus far? Though it may sound like a simple answer, (and it is not easy to swallow) the truth is that this tragedy is silent, and if you live in the Gulf, it is most likely affecting you right now as you read this. What is it? Your health may be in extreme jeopardy due to the toxic effects of the dispersant Corexit and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from crude oil inundating the air. Through recent studies conducted under the combined efforts of Michelle Nix of Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers, Jo Billups and Karen Harvill of Sassafrass, Dr. Robert Naman, Project Gulf Impact, medical professionals, and the brave Gulf residents who have agreed to be tested, the toxic health effects of the poisons in the air and in the sea have been documented for the first time. The results? This stands to become one of the greatest health tragedies the United States has ever seen.
If this is such a powerful threat, why has it gone so under reported for so long? Why is mainstream media ignoring these potentially large-scale health problems? The scenario’s biggest problem is the scenario itself. Perpetrated by a corporation, the influx of relief that would ordinarily stream in after most acts of God has quietly gone elsewhere.
Why is this killer so silent? Why have we not heard much about the disastrous health effects of this oil and dispersant in the air? Why are everyday citizens not catching on to what gargantuan health problems are coming in the not-so-distant future, affecting everyone, even the journalists who should be reporting on it? The answer may seem strange, and it is complex, however the biggest problem facing this mounting horrific scenario is… the BP oil spill was not a hurricane.
The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico will go down in history as one of the biggest catastrophes this planet has ever seen. Books are already being written on how much we didn’t know. The cover up and the lies that led this country into the health crisis we are about to face will be documented in years to come. Acts of God, like hurricanes, are fast and furious, the damage is immediate. This, on the other hand, is a slow death.
With a hurricane, we know the death toll, the devastation right away. We see the bodies, the houses underwater, and the numbers of dollars lost in real-time as all of the data floods the national spotlight in the aftermath of the disaster. With disasters like Hurricane Katrina, our heartstrings are tugged as we witness cities underwater, mothers crying out for their children, and the newly homeless wandering the streets. We are used to hurricanes. We have evacuation routes. Whether they function or not, we have plans in place for disasters like these.
No such plan exists for the victims of an oil spill. Instinctively, we are aware of floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other “over the counter” disasters. Most of us have never suffered an oil spill, much less have any notion of what to do in the event of one. The problem we are facing now transcends most disasters this nation has suffered in the last century.
The oil spill, and our ensuing response, has created a darker and deadlier aftermath that will persist for decades. The difference is between a swift and lethal blow verses lingering end-stage cancer. Like the first stage of cancer, which often goes long-undetected, this aftermath is a slow, deadly creep. We are entering stage one of the Gulf residents’ proverbial “cancer”.
What BP, Thad Allen, The Federal Government, and The EPA Don’t Want You To Know
The residents of the Gulf of Mexico are entering a crisis whose scope cannot be calculated. Several symptoms have been reported, from subtle to severe: skin rashes and infections, upper respiratory burning, congestion and cough, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms including short-term memory loss and coordination problems. These health problems, if acknowledged at all, are mis-diagnosed, buried, and mis-attributed.
Amidst a vacuum created by the unwillingness of federal, state, and private sector medical organizations to address the growing health problems, independent, privately-funded groups like Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers (GCOSV), Sassafrass, and Project Gulf Impact have taken matters into their own hands.
Patterns are emerging. The same symptoms are being reported across the four hardest hit states. Michelle Nix of GCOSV discovered the Volatile Solvents Profile – a blood test that tests for hydrocarbons in the blood. Through the generous support of Jo Billups and Karen Harvill of Sassafrass, and the support of Dr. Robert Naman, among others, testing on Gulf residents has begun. The results are extremely alarming.
Several volatile hydrocarbons found in crude oil have been detected in the blood of several residents from Orange Beach, AL. Among the hydrocarbons tested, ethylbenzene, xylene, hexane were detected at abnormally high levels. The individuals tested were not directly involved in BP’s clean-up operations, nor had they been exposed to any industrial environment where the presence of these compounds would be of concern. Due to these circumstances, it can be deduced that residents living near the Gulf of Mexico shoreline are at exposure risk.
Crude oil is composed of several highly toxic compounds, including light weight hydrocarbons, often referred to as “light-ends,” which can easily enter the atmosphere and invade the terrestrial environment. These lightweight hydrocarbons are classified as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), which can be tested in the blood, urine, breath, and sometimes tissues. The tests that were performed on several gulf coast residents indicated the presence of ethyl benzene, xylene, & hexane. While their toxicity is known, specific data on the dose and physiological responses to the aforementioned hydrocarbons is generally scarce in the scientific literature. Ethyl benzene is suspected by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a human carcinogen. Acute, high-exposure symptoms include eye irritation, upper respiratory irritation, and dizziness. Chronic exposure has resulted in irreversible inner ear damage and hearing loss, as well as severe kidney damage and cancer.
Xylene is metabolized into methylhippuric acid by the body. Studies on xylene toxicity have determined a potential relationship between gaseous exposure and the development of leukemia. The chemical is highly toxic to the central nervous system and manifests as dizziness, lack of coordination, and cognitive decline. Chronic exposure is also known to cause kidney failure. Studies on hexane toxicity are highly limited, but include evidence of neurological impairment manifest by decreased nerve conduction velocity. (CDC.gov)
These chemicals have the potential to cause both acute and chronic symptoms depending upon the dose and time frame of exposure. Thus, while low doses may not result in immediate and apparent symptoms, the cumulative nature of these toxins means that disease may still manifest years down the line if exposure occurs chronically. While many VOC’s are excreted very quickly, the human body is impacted with every dose, no matter how minuscule. When the impact of several tiny doses are combined, such as in people who are experiencing daily low-level exposure, the result can be detrimental. In addition to the direct impact of these specific VOC’s, many of them can be metabolized by the body and converted into other structurally distinct compounds, some of which are known to accumulate causing several different types of cancer, genetic damage, and birth defects. In essence, the health threat of chronic low-dose chemical toxicity is highly underestimated. Strict bio-monitoring and caution is required to prevent the potential unseen slaughter by a silent chemical killer.
These results prove that we are in an extremely dangerous situation, a bubble that is about to burst wide open. Unless people begin realizing that the sickness they’ve been feeling for the last few weeks is not a cold, but that it is chemical exposure, there will be no help. Unless people start demanding that this oil spill, and every horror that goes along with it is put immediately back into the national spotlight, there will be no hope for people to fully understand to dangers and take the necessary precautions. Unless we all stand up as a people, start communicating, researching, sharing information, and spreading the truth instead of lies, we will enter a catastrophe that we are, as a people, nowhere near prepared to handle on a local or national level. It is time to demand the truth, and demand it now.
The blood test performed on these individuals is called the Volatile Solvents Profile (Metametrix.com). The test can be obtained and administered by any physician with the ability to perform a simple blood draw. The test will be shipped to a laboratory for analysis and returned to your doctor for interpretation and treatment.