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Gulf War Syndrome II
March 9, 2011 10:27 AM   Subscribe

"The saddest part is the children... We’re seeing young children with extremely high levels of chemicals. We're altering our DNA and our bodies forever. We're a bunch of guinea pigs." (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (95 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meanwhile, BP's CEO Bob Dudley is saying "I'm sorry, we get it" (to the oil industry -- no apology to the millions affected by the spill), the mainline US media has gone on to other stories long ago, and all is right with the world.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2011


Waitaminute, maybe this explains Charlie Sheen?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:37 AM on March 9, 2011


Is it bad that the first thing that sprung to mind when I read the post was Cortexiphan and that I read the quote in Walter Bishop's voice?
posted by The World Famous at 10:38 AM on March 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


And of course, the whole oil spill is ancient history, domestically, which is why only an outlet like Al Jazeera would bother to report on this hideous, hideous aftermath. *sigh*
posted by Bromius at 10:38 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The important thing is that Tony Hayward has his life back.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:39 AM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was going to snark about how this is all Obama's fault somehow, or about how you can't have a real dystopia without some mutants running around, or about how this is obviously just the next stage of evolution intelligent design, but honestly I'm just too depressed.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:40 AM on March 9, 2011


this is disgusting on a lotta levels. tony hayward should set himself on fire.
posted by supermedusa at 10:41 AM on March 9, 2011


I've noticed some "Everything's fine. C'mon down and eat some shrimp" commercials for BP started running recently. It must be true, 'cause a corporation says so.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:42 AM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is weep worthy.
Guess who will be talking her family out of going to the Gulf with 2 year old niece for a little R&R this summer?
posted by tingting at 10:43 AM on March 9, 2011


The big tins of Chinese crab meat sitting where the gulf coast stuff used to be makes every trip to the fish dept. a sad, sad thing.
posted by The Whelk at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


This article is dinging all kinds of alarm bells for me. It's chock full of false appeals to authority and anecdotes without any real numbers.

It reads like alarmist bullshit, to be frank.
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is a huge story, and most of the MSM is staying away from it completely. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but it doesn't seem like this could really be "Just" a case of the spill having outlived its newsworthiness, does it?
posted by KGMoney at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2011


It reads like alarmist bullshit, to be frank.

Because if there's one thing al jazeeera is known for, it's alarmist bullshit.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


A 33 year old Merrick Vallian did die on August 23, but no cause of death is mentioned. Wouldn't there normally be an autopsy or investigation if an otherwise physically fit person suddenly died of apparent poisoning?
posted by IanMorr at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2011



Not if BP's money still works.
posted by notreally at 10:55 AM on March 9, 2011


Because if there's one thing al jazeeera is known for, it's alarmist bullshit.

Well, they do Hate America.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:56 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hayward and all underlings should be legally required to swim in the Gulf waters every day that BP declares them safe.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:57 AM on March 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm going to pick this apart, because people don't seem to be thinking critically here. Please don't assume that because things confirm your suspicions that they are necessarily true.

"I have critically high levels of chemicals in my body," 33-year-old Steven Aguinaga of Hazlehurst, Mississippi told Al Jazeera. "Yesterday I went to see another doctor to get my blood test results and the nurse said she didn't know how I even got there."

That may be good copy, but where's the follow up call to the doctor to get details?

According to chemist Bob Naman, these chemicals create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. Naman, who works at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, Alabama, has been carrying out studies to search for the chemical markers of the dispersants BP used to both sink and break up its oil.

Who is this guy and what are his credentials? He may be well intentioned, but I get the impression that he doesn't really know what he's talking about.

And Aguinaga's friend Vallian is now dead.

"After we got back from our vacation in Florida, Merrick went to work for a company contracted by BP to clean up oil in Grand Isle, Louisiana," Aguinaga said of his 33-year-old physically fit friend.

"Aside from some gloves, BP provided no personal protection for them. He worked for them for two weeks and then died on August 23. He had just got his first paycheck, and it was in his wallet, uncashed, when he died."


It rather obviously does not say what he died of. Why?

Since then, I've had two blood tests for Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC's] which are in BP's oil and dispersants, and they both came back with alarmingly high levels," he said.,

The CDC doesn't recommend these tests and doesn't think that they are useful.

etc.. etc... I can go on. I would not take anything in this article at face value.
posted by empath at 10:58 AM on March 9, 2011 [22 favorites]


This is a huge story, and most of the MSM is staying away from it completely. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but it doesn't seem like this could really be "Just" a case of the spill having outlived its newsworthiness, does it?

My hunch is not so much "conspiracy" as "the MSM being so terrified of the 'liberal media' label that they self-censor stories that validate extremist liberal talking points like 'the environment matters' and 'corporations sometimes lie' and 'let's not eat poison'."
posted by AugieAugustus at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


This article is dinging all kinds of alarm bells for me. It's chock full of false appeals to authority and anecdotes without any real numbers.

Agreed. While I'm sure there are a variety of health problems associated with the oil spill and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the claims made in the article are true, the article does the issue a disservice by skirting the boundaries of good journalism.

On preview: thanks for the breakdown, empath.
posted by incessant at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2011


Because if there's one thing al jazeeera is known for, it's alarmist bullshit.

Al Jazeera is better than CNN, but it's still got plenty of lazy, slanted journalism. It's part of the business.
posted by empath at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2011


Whew, everything's ok! Thanks for letting me know, empath!
(yes, I kid. I know you're just urging us to be cautious and not give into the hysterical side)...
posted by symbioid at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, meant to link to this CDC page.
posted by empath at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2011


I am not sure the potential environmental impact of last years oil spill is dealt with adequately by a OMG CHEMICALS! woo-woo story.
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whew, everything's ok! Thanks for letting me know, empath!

I have absolutely no doubt that the gulf has elevated levels of toxins, and I wouldn't personally swim in it right now, but stories of people dropping dead after one swim just don't strike me as plausible.

I think we should just be realistic here and not scream the sky is falling, when things are merely bad but not apocalyptic.
posted by empath at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2011


It set off some alarms with me, too. There are quotes from a couple of (alleged) experts, sure, and the anecdotal evidence about bad things happening to good people. But more needs to be done to nail this down. Specifically, I would have liked Al Jazeera to track down the autopsy report on Vallian, and tied it to the story with some experts who could demonstrate how this muck killed him.

On the other hand, I have no great difficulty believing the "cure" is as bad or worse than the disease. Though I would be shocked, shocked to hear that a corporation thought the best strategy would be to slap a cosmetic band-aid on the problem until the media served up our next helping of bread and circuses.
posted by Hylas at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2011


If you can directly replace "chemicals" with "vaccines" and the name of the roped-in "expert" with "Jenny McCarthy" and it's still the same then your story probably has some problems.
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Whew, everything's ok! Thanks for letting me know, empath!

Look, everything is not "ok" but I think you're being a bit hard on empath for being skeptical. I don't think he was saying everything is ok
posted by nola at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2011


There appear to be zero Google hits for the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile not related to this story.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on March 9, 2011


Posting here to confess that it took me years of Simpsons re-run watching before I got the joke behind Krusty and Bett Middler owning a horse together named Kruddler.

As you were.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:10 AM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also google tells me that Kruddler is the name of a band, fulfilling the Simpsons band name rule.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2011


Are you perhaps meaning to post in another thread?
posted by blucevalo at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2011


oh hell, wrong thread, flagged.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2011


I'm more than prepared to believe that both the oil and the chemicals used to disperse it can and do cause terrible health problems, but I'd like to see a much better article about it. One with citations, links to scientific studies, and so on. As it stands, this article isn't much good for anything but fearmongering.
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2011


I'm pretty sure this is true. My cousin, who did clean up for BP, has all of these symptoms and more. Her Dr. is seriously afraid she's going to die soon. My aunt emailed the family today to keep us updated. The cousin's lawyer has told them to keep quiet about it so that tourists will keep coming on down. He said he will deal with it but they are to not talk about it to the authorities.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:16 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Aguinaga and his close friend Merrick Vallian went swimming at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in July 2010.

So...during the oil spill, at a beach right near the spill site? Probably not a smart thing to do in the first place.
posted by electroboy at 11:17 AM on March 9, 2011


As it stands, this article isn't much good for anything but fearmongering.

Looking at the article again, I reluctantly agree. I think the problem is that the effects and the data that we would need to feel better about any article such as this won't be performed or made available for years, if ever.
posted by blucevalo at 11:17 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Altering our DNA forever? This reads like vaccine conspiracy theory nonsense.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see a much better article about it.

When the American media produces one, please let us know.

In the meantime, we'll just have to subdue any fear mongered by these "bleeding from the ears" anecdotes.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Naman doesn't work at ACT, he owns ACT, and it appears to be a pretty small shop. He may well be the only chemist in the gulf that BP haven't bought off, or he may be using flawed methodology to test bad samples. Since it seems he won't talk to any journalists that aren't interested in using his results to write an article like this one I guess we'll have to draw our own conclusions.
posted by IanMorr at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2011


Paul Doom (mentioned in the article) is real. He's confined to a wheelchair right now
posted by lemuring at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2011


empath, that CDC link you posted is kind of weird in how it's worded. It reads like a "stay calm, Duck and Cover" PR posting, more than anything. At the bottom is links to the CDC's own fact sheets on the VOC's. The compounds are n-Hexane, Xylene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Benzene. All of these chemical compounds are in our everyday life (and have been since the invention of refined oil products). The sad thing, though, is that every one of them lists serious adverse health effects, from nerve damage to death. Benzene is a known carcinogen (meaning it causes cancer) and prolonged exposure will give you leukemia. To a degree, that page kind of reads like whitewashing of the whole issue by the CDC to try and reduce public alarm about the possibility that they have been poisoned. In fact, I've recently started to become rather curious about just how much the government has had a policy of whitewashing the effects of hydrocarbons and VOC's in general on humans. I mean, we are all exposed to these chemicals whether we want to be or not, simply because of the proliferation of gasoline and gas burning cars in all our population centers.

I wish those fact sheets had numbers to say what is and isn't "high levels" of exposure.

But then, the paranoid part of me says that if they published that information, people would be able to look at their own blood tests and see that all of us are being exposed to "high levels" and that maybe the biggest destroyer of health is something that we are vitally addicted to in our society, namely burning gasoline for transportation.

But I'm been known to be alarmist and crazy all at the same time.
posted by daq at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dunno. I used to live down in Pensacola and still have friends there. They aren't real confident about the quality of the Gulf at the moment, for reals. One of them posted a fb link to a friend's pics of dead critters washing up on Pensacola Beach this week.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that if you buy a meteorite full of space bugs it will cure all those effects. DAMN YOU NASA FOR SUPPRESSING THE SPACE BUGS!
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and links to the CDC fact sheets:
n-Hexane
Xylene
Ethylbenzene
Toluene
Benzene

I certainly would like to think that these aren't in everything we eat and drink and breath, but quite frankly, I think they probably are and are making us all sicker than we would normally be.
posted by daq at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2011


I think the problem is that the effects and the data that we would need to feel better about any article such as this won't be performed or made available for years, if ever.

You're probably right, unfortunately. At the very least, though, this article could have been framed differently - more "People in the Gulf who worked on the cleanup or swam in the water at the time of the spill are experiencing terrible health problems. [quotes from doctors] Unfortunately, very little research is being done on these effects [quote from a researcher] [info about lack of funds for research, political roadblocks, etc.]" and less...yellow.
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2011


I certainly would like to think that these aren't in everything we eat and drink and breath, but quite frankly, I think they probably are and are making us all sicker than we would normally be.

It's grimly amusing to hear people talk about "finding a cure for cancer" when most of our effort is spent in inventing new causes of it.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit [dispersants] and generate other cyclic compounds that aren't good. Many have double bonds

One of the reasons why this story has remained underreported is because it's difficult for the average reader to process.

This article is dinging all kinds of alarm bells for me. It's chock full of false appeals to authority and anecdotes without any real numbers.

Yeah, it seemed pretty alarmist.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:36 AM on March 9, 2011


People outside the Gulf area really need to understand how powerful the local cultural and political pressures to downplay the realities of this story are. The suggestions of deliberate media cover-ups, with local officials hushing up bad news out of concern for economic impact, are not at all as unlikely as one might hope. You know how in Jaws, that corny small town mayor stereotype abuses his position to actively suppress news from getting out about the big shark gobbling up tourists swimming on his beach? Yeah, the Gulf region in Florida might well have provided the model backdrop for that film (only with more of a nasty, Southern mean-streak). If media outside the region don't dig for these stories, you won't see them bubbling up on the national radar.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


The suggestions of deliberate media cover-ups, with local officials hushing up bad news out of concern for economic impact, are not at all as unlikely as one might hope.

My, how that takes me back... [cue wiggle screen and harp]

Throughout the ordeal, homeowners' concerns were ignored not only by Hooker Chemical (now a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum), but also by members of government. These parties argued that the area's endemic health problems were unrelated to the toxic chemicals buried in the Canal. Since the residents could not prove the chemicals on their property had come from Hooker's disposal site, they could not prove liability.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:40 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


That said, I agree the story isn't perfect, but hey, in this case I think it's better than nothing. There are definitely a few hard facts here--though it would be nice to see them better substantiated, but it's a news article not a science experiment or a legal argument; presumably a-j's fact-checkers did due diligence whether they showed their work in the finished product or not. This does reinforce some of the other reporting on the science that's been coming out of the region more recently. And honestly, doesn't it just seem more consistent with common sense than the all-clear bell ringing as soon and as loudly as it did, no matter how tempting it might be to just want to believe it's all just going to be OK now? (Which is the only long-term conclusion the little OK Computers in our heads seem to be wired to reach...)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And honestly, doesn't it just seem more consistent with common sense...

I don't know. Those dolphins may have committed suicide.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of you will understand why I've rushed over here to post a comment without actually reading the source material.
posted by PepperMax at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should just trust that all these assertions are backed up by facts, even if none of them are apparent from the article.
posted by electroboy at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2011


e should just trust that all these assertions are backed up by facts, even if none of them are apparent from the article.

Everyone is either The Good Guys or The Bad Guys. The ones that are on your team always tell the truth. The enemy always lies.
posted by empath at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I want to know is whether the CDC or any epidemiologists are looking at this problem scientifically on a population level to see whether any short-term health effects are, in fact, evident. The sort of anecdotal bullshit the article promotes is unhelpful in the extreme and only serves to inflame the passionate. Damn it, I want to know whether ER visits have gone up, whether hospitalizations in general or for, say, immune system dysfunction have gone up, whether mortality rates have increased signficantly, etc., etc. It's fine for the CDC to not recommend individual testing, but come on, let's do something.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2011


I agree that this article is short on specifics, but I tire of this idea that we can't ever believe anything in the absence of multiple peer-reviewed studies. This approach assumes that everything we'd need to know about the spill is currently measurable, that such a study would be complete, published, and and peer-reviewed in time to make a difference in the management of the region, and that there would even be funding or support for such a study (and given the way that government scientists were restrained from taking measurements or commenting on the situation at the time of the spill, I don't have a lot of hope for that).

I love that MeFi has such a culture of demanding data and evidence, but sometimes the LACK of data and evidence is the real story.
posted by dialetheia at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I am not sure the potential environmental impact of last years oil spill is dealt with adequately by a OMG CHEMICALS! woo-woo story.


I think the problem is that the effects and the data that we would need to feel better about any article such as this won't be performed or made available for years, if ever.


Interestingly enough, it takes time for good researchers to do their studies and gather the data. It also takes time, effort and energy for a good journalist to gather the facts and write a cogent article about the situation. Much easier to slap together something half-arsed and poorly written. Sadly enough, this allows the public to become inured to fear-mongering half facts and ignore the true situation. Very helpful for BP in the long run.

I'm 100 percent in agreement that BP has poisoned the Gulf for a long, long time. We're royally screwed.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:23 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


That BP commercial with the Cajun-accented shrimper dude is some creepy shit.

Now, be quiet and enjoy a Corexit po boy.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


We should just trust that all these assertions are backed up by facts, even if none of them are apparent from the article.

Well, if that was directed at me, that's not what I'm saying. The specific flesh and blood people reported as being ill and dying and having extremely weird lab results (assuming, as I said, that AJ's fact checkers substantiated the claims like they're supposed to) are facts backing up the article's claims.

So it's not true there are no facts in the article. There are those facts, assuming they aren't total fabrications--which is really unlikely.

What, do you want to see a print out of the lab reports? The death certificate? I agree it be nice to see more detail, and more than a few specific examples--some overall counts or something. But in reality, aggregate counts and statistical analysis are probably more, not less, susceptible to being passed off with inadequate substantiation than simple reports of names, places, and events (who, what, when, where type facts).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I'd like to see something that indicates the probable cause of death, which should have been investigated when a 30 year old in good health dies.

Further, I'd like to see them talk to people who weren't swimming in the Gulf during the oil spill, since everyone named in the article appears to have been.

I don't doubt that there's still a lot of oil in the Gulf, and I don't doubt that there are serious health consequences from being exposed to crude oil. But claiming this shitty article proves something or supplies some sort of usable information seems like a stretch.
posted by electroboy at 12:35 PM on March 9, 2011


I'd like to see them talk to people who weren't swimming in the Gulf during the oil spill...

The best way to gauge the effects of exposure to a toxin is by studying people who weren't exposed to that toxin.

Is this what you're saying?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree that the article doesn't prove anything. But that shouldn't be too surprising, since news articles aren't proofs. I also think it's probably a bit too alarmist in tone, but really, we're kind of impossible to satisfy on that count anymore. Anytime bad news is reported--especially bad news about some industry abuse or malpractice--it invariably seems to be called out as alarmist as often as it is actually discussed.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2011


The best way to report on widespread chemical exposure is to find three edge cases and report them as typical?

Is this what you're saying?
posted by electroboy at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr. James Mason, who ran the CDC from 1983 to 1989, acknowledges that politics has always been a force to be reckoned with at the agency but that "should come as no surprise."

Mason points out that the CDC is under the Department of Health and Human Services, whose secretary must be confirmed by the Senate.

"Of course you are going to have some political oversight and political influence," he said. "It's inherent and necessary."

But Mason argues that it's up to the individual in charge of the agency to stand firmly on the side of science when it conflicts with political interests. He recalls struggles with the White House during his tenure as he dealt with the burgeoning AIDS crisis. At one point, he was under pressure to alter a mass mailing about preventing AIDS that included information on needle sharing and use of condoms.

"I had to say that what went out was based on scientific opinion. There were people in the White House who weren't happy," he said. "We weren't fired when we took the scientific approach." (source)
Total Oil & Gas Lobbying in 2010: $146,296,424

I doubt anyone in HHS is in any hurry to see just how bad the oil spill is.
posted by notion at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really wonder whether we would be having these arguments if a news organization other than Al Jazeera put forth the article. It's not a shitty article, and it's not Emmy award-winning either. It's a friggin article, a report.

In fact, here's another Al Jazeera article about the oil spill by the same author. I would say if you're looking for a 'meatier' article than this is it.

The US government should have fined BP, they should have handled the legal proceedings of collecting the money, because it's clear that BP isn't just going to hand out cash if they're given a choice in the matter. They're forcing people to sign waivers or else receive far less in compensation than would be acceptable considering the circumstances.

BP's rep has a golden quote in the article:
Feinberg said: "We've paid out $1bn in Louisiana alone. Somebody's getting money. It might be the wrong people, but somebody's getting money."

...I just don't have words.
posted by lemuring at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really wonder whether we would be having these arguments if a news organization other than Al Jazeera put forth the article.

I don't.

The best way to report on widespread chemical exposure is to find three edge cases and report them as typical? Is this what you're saying?

The best way to report on widespread chemical exposure is to report on it.

Al-Jazeera is. The American media is not.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The sad thing is by rushing to publish this story they unintentionally undermine the story's credibility in the long term. Some if not all of the claims made in the above story might prove to be true, but I'm sorry to say I think this does a disservice to uncovering the facts. Right now this is being looked at from several angles here is one from the AP: Researchers say they're seeking clues as to what caused the deaths. They report that 28 dolphins of all ages have been found dead in waters off the two states since the start of 2011,

. . .But scientists say they've ruled out possible effects from last summer's enormous oil rig spill off Louisiana.

I'm for digging deeper and I don't think we should be complacent, but there are alot of stories in circulation right now on this subject that don't have enough information for me to draw any clear conclusions about the on going effects. I don't believe there is a cover up and until all the data is in I'm not going to except conclusions.
posted by nola at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2011


. . .But scientists say they've ruled out possible effects from last summer's enormous oil rig spill off Louisiana.

Whoa! That's absolutely not true according to any of the other accounts I've read about this story, including the Scientific American article which I also posted about here previously on the blue. "Scientists" haven't ruled anything out in the case of the Dolphin deaths. That is a flat-out lie if it's being reported that way.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's good to know, saulgoodman.
posted by nola at 1:30 PM on March 9, 2011


Maybe that angle is coming from a misunderstanding of this detail from the Dolphin death's story:

The latest wave follows an earlier tally of 89 dead dolphins -- virtually all of them adults -- reported to have washed ashore in 2010 after the Gulf oil spill.

Results from an examination of those remains, conducted as part of the government's oil spill damage assessment, have not been released, though scientists concluded those dolphins "died from something environmental during the last year," Mase said.

posted by saulgoodman at 1:32 PM on March 9, 2011



What I want to know is whether the CDC or any epidemiologists are looking at this problem scientifically on a population level to see whether any short-term health effects are, in fact, evident.


I don't know about epidemiologists in general. But the CDC is an arm of the government that authorized the use of Corex without any understanding of what the long term effects on the populace would be as a result of mixing huge amounts of it with huge amounts of oil in the gulf.
posted by notreally at 2:08 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thought the article may be thin, there have been a lot of indicators of serious shit happening in the gulf.

Oil still lingering on the sea floor, this article also mentions methane gas as a problem.

Louisiana's wetlands would you eat anything from that area now?

This article has some interesting stuff, "Boatright has been diving in the gulf since he was 17. From last June to September, he dived as usual about once a week, in areas the federal government had declared safe and open for fishing. "

Guess what happens to him?
posted by Max Power at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


My sister, her two daughters, and her two grandkids live in Gulf Shores AL, so close to the ocean that they can see dolphins on a regular basis come up their little boat inlet. They've been pretty blithe about the oil spill, but I am sure worried about those babies. The kids range in age from 9 to one year.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2011


*five grandkids.*
posted by emjaybee at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2011


emjaybee... there are plenty of bigger implications for little'uns born into the world at the moment related to the consumption, inevitable depletion and probably global deleterious/geopolitical effects of our oil fixation than to worry about this spill in isolation.
posted by panaceanot at 2:37 PM on March 9, 2011


electroboy: The best way to report on widespread chemical exposure is to find three edge cases and report them as typical?

I don't think it's reasonable to dismiss the cases just because most people live on the land and these three people spent time in the water. I spent countless days in that water every spring and summer growing up, as did a ton of my friends and family, so I don't think that alone makes someone an "edge case."

The Gulf Coast has soft white powdery sand and warm water. Tourism in the area is a huge industry, with both locals and people from throughout the region coming to enjoy those beaches. If being in the water gives you awful health problems that eventually make you die, I think it's something worth looking into. (Not saying that anything in this article proves this to be true, but I wish someone would seriously look into it)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:53 PM on March 9, 2011


The sad thing is by rushing to publish this story they unintentionally undermine the story's credibility in the long term.

To be fair the story in the previous link was pretty much the exact same story and just as loony, so right now credibility is pretty much flat.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on March 9, 2011


Who is this guy and what are his credentials? He may be well intentioned, but I get the impression that he doesn't really know what he's talking about.

Well, while we might agree that HP seems to have done a splendid job discrediting Bob (and it certainly does look that way), I'm curious about how credible the chemist, Dr. Wilma Subra, referenced in the second article is? That article implies she's got the endorsement of no less "reliable" a source than CNN. And she's finding a lot of really nasty stuff in both the blood and the water she's been testing.
According to chemist Dr Wilma Subra, whose lab ran the test on Boatright and two of his diving partners, all three had the same results, and the mix of chemicals was an ''exact fingerprint'' for those identified when they tested samples of the BP crude erupting from the ocean floor.

Subra, a renowned environmental toxicologist with more than 30 years' experience, has been dubbed ''a modern-day Erin Brockovich'' by CNN. She and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which has been working locally since 1986 with more than 100 community organisations, have been conducting toxicity tests on clean-up workers, fishermen and coastal residents experiencing symptoms like Boatright's.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:50 PM on March 9, 2011


Federal researchers have announced the beginning of a wide-ranging study into the possible health effects of the BP oil spill on cleanup workers.

The study, which will be led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will try to follow 20,000 workers for the next 10 years, making it the largest study ever into the health effects of an oil spill.

The first 1,000 invitations to take part in the study were sent out on Monday, said Dale Sandler, chief of the epidemiology branch of the institute. The goal, she said, is to eventually extend invitations to around 100,000 people who were involved in the cleanup, most of whom live in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida.


Officials hope that around 55,000 of the invitees will enroll in the study, a group that will be narrowed further after an initial phone interview. Researchers will visit about 20,000 of these people at their homes, take samples and health measurements, conduct extensive interviews about their health histories and follow up with them over the next decade.

From the first days of the oil spill, residents along the Gulf Coast have feared long-term health effects, a concern that was heightened by the unparalleled use of chemical dispersants.

In the ensuing months, there have been complaints of health effects from spill exposure around the coast, with some talking of severe symptoms.

... From NY times, March 1, 2011
posted by zia at 4:09 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Federal researchers have announced the beginning of a wide-ranging study into the possible health effects of the BP oil spill on cleanup workers.

This is good to know. I hope BP is paying for it, but suspect they aren't.

There also needs to be a monitoring of population cancer rates over the next few years through the state registries.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:22 AM on March 10, 2011


But the CDC is an arm of the government that authorized the use of Corex without any understanding

It's Corexit and approval was made by the EPA.
posted by electroboy at 10:19 AM on March 10, 2011


Saul, this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, also mentions Subra, and says she has the ear of the president. I don't think credability is the issue, just denial on the part of some of us because well, you know, Al Jazeera.
posted by Max Power at 3:30 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want some fucking alarmist journalism about it. You want to know why? It gets shit done. Silent Spring was called alarmist, but it made an impact. We need more people willing to scare the shit out of people until something gets done. I'm sick of liberals letting the conservative media only turn Republican stories into alarmist rallying points. Fuck that. Shit's bad out there and it should be alarming.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:49 PM on March 10, 2011


The cure for bullshit is not actually additional bullshit.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2011


Silent Spring was alarming but not alarmist; it had and presented data to support its thesis, which this article does not appear to have done.
posted by rtha at 4:18 PM on March 10, 2011


...and we're in "They laughed at Galileo!" territory again.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2011


Just to be clear, and I recognize that the miscommunication is firmly my fault, I'm not holding up this article as great journalism or even semi-believable. I'm just fed up with things getting swept under the rug. The answer isn't more crappy articles (like this), but some decent investigative journalism. I'd like to see this article done well. Maybe with a dash of hyperbole THE SKY IS FALLING thrown in at the beginning to get people's attention. (This is not necessarily responsible on my part.)
posted by stoneweaver at 5:09 PM on March 10, 2011


What kind of useful idiot's default assumption is that any and all claims of serious environmental consequences from the largest sea-based industrial accident in US history absolutely must be treated as BS until they come across that one perfect article that can convince them otherwise?

I'm sorry but this whole knee-jerk reactionary, dismissal of any bad news out of the Gulf just seems like the most incredibly backwards--and conventional--form of rationalization and gullibility dressed up as knowing skepticism to me. Shouldn't we want to be absolutely sure, rather than just assuming and keeping our fingers crossed that, you know, people aren't going to die from swimming in water we tell them is safe for swimming in?
posted by saulgoodman at 5:22 PM on March 10, 2011


The cure for bullshit is not actually additional bullshit.

Your faith in industry has been noted.
posted by Max Power at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2011


Why should we treat these claims uncritically? It's pretty certain that there's serious negative health effects from the oil spill. I don't think anyone doubts that. Why would you hang your hat on a piece of shit article like this, unless it's just outragefilter?
posted by electroboy at 6:33 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm sorry but this whole knee-jerk reactionary, dismissal of any bad news out of the Gulf just seems like the most incredibly backwards--and conventional--form of rationalization and gullibility dressed up as knowing skepticism to me. Shouldn't we want to be absolutely sure, rather than just assuming and keeping our fingers crossed that, you know, people aren't going to die from swimming in water we tell them is safe for swimming in?

I don't need to read an article full of sensationalistic, poorly-sourced bullshit to convince me not to swim in the gulf. All you have to tell me is that there are some elevated levels of toxins in the water and we're unsure of what the health effects might be, which seems pretty close to the truth.
posted by empath at 7:11 AM on March 11, 2011


Well, as long as you admit, then, that there is good cause for real concern and some caution, I can't say I don't agree with you.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:31 AM on March 11, 2011


If you'd like another poorly-supported post about the oil spill from Joe Beese, visit Corexit Blues (although it is worth reading for the contribution of Anonymous $5 Sockpuppet).
posted by electroboy at 11:04 AM on March 11, 2011


Altering our DNA forever? This reads like vaccine conspiracy theory nonsense.

Sort of. The article is short on details, long on alarmist speculation, and is generally dubious. There's one exception: the chemist is correct in saying that PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are related to DNA damage. Specifically, they create diol epoxides, o-quinones, or radical cations when metabolized, and these all react with nucleotides (primarily guanine but also adenine bases) to form DNA adducts. The cell may attempt to get rid of these lesions using nucleotide excision repair, but if that fails, the lesions may halt normal DNA synthesis and result in the cell having to call in less-accurate polymerases to manage translesion DNA synthesis; this process has a much higher mutation rate (depending on the polymerase and the lesion) than normal DNA synthesis. In other words, exposure to PAHs can result in a longer-term cancer risk by causing mutations. Note that this sort of risk really is longer-term; a single mutation in a single cell doesn't become cancer over night (the process is much more complicated), and the cell does manage to fix or deal with a lot of DNA damage.

Now, I should note that I don't know anything about these particular chemicals, and I don't know whether the reactions described by the chemist are plausible or probable. I've also got no idea whether the resulting exposure would be significantly above background level of exposure to PAHs. Additionally, given how recent the Gulf spill was, I would personally suspect that regardless of the rest of this, any health effects seen at this point are not related to the carcinogenic nature of the compounds. (There are plenty of other ways chemicals can be unhealthy in the short term.) That said, DNA alteration is pretty much what lots of carcinogens do, in one way or another, and if it turns out that the chemist in the article is correct about the chemistry of the dispersant compounds, it's certainly possible that there will be longer-term cancer risks (and other risks related to DNA damage) for people who were exposed to a significant amount of the chemicals. We should certainly figure out if this is what's going on, and also figure out what other non-carcinogen-related health risks there are! But this article doesn't do much to answer those questions - it is more emotion than evidence - and I think it's far too early to jump to talking about "Gulf War Syndrome II."
posted by ubersturm at 11:58 AM on March 11, 2011


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