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Toxic illnesses linked to BP oil dispersants
October 30, 2010 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Although some claim most of the oil is gone, and new tests for dispersants say seafood and people are safe, the reality is of course much different. However, an investigation by an Al Jazeera online correspondent finds toxic illnesses linked to BP oil dispersants along the Gulf coast. Trisha Springstead is a registered nurse of 36 years who lives and works in Brooksville, Florida. "What I'm seeing are toxified people who have been chemically poisoned," she said, "They have sore throats, respiratory problems, neurological problems, lesions, sores, and ulcers. These people have been poisoned and they are dying. Drugs aren’t going to help these people. They need to be detoxed."
posted by agregoli (31 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Someone owes someone a Coke. Both FPPs posted at 12:18 p.m.
posted by ericb at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2010


*heh* This one is better written, by far. Nice job, agregoli.

But I think I'm the one owed a Coke.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 AM on October 30, 2010


Well, the reality is that people are going to get sick and die no matter what. This isn't to say the oil spilled in the gulf isn't horrible, but everyone is going to blame every health problem the suffer on it, from now on.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up on Gulf seafood, and I love it, but I'm very nervous about eating it now. And I can't imagine swimming in the Gulf even at Galveston. Official assurances are nice, but it's not like after the official response to Katrina, even with the change of administration, I trust that the federal government will take sufficient care of folks on the Gulf Coast. (And I'm an Obama voter, too.) We suck hind teat and we know it.

The Al-Jazeera deserves to be taken with a grain of salt, but the "everything is OK and we're all fine here" report doesn't ring true either. The truth is we won't know for a long time how badly we're screwed, if we ever do.
posted by immlass at 9:31 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, recently.
posted by briank at 9:33 AM on October 30, 2010


Drugs aren’t going to help these people. They need to be detoxed.

Woo alert.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:35 AM on October 30, 2010 [36 favorites]


This may be tragic. But if this is the same Trisha Springstead who runs espbontanicals.com, I would be a bit skeptical. Just googling Trisha Springstead leads to a number of herbalist/organic/new-agey stuff that raises alarm bells. And the bit about "drugs aren't going to help these people. They need to be detoxed" sounds like bullshit to be honest.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:37 AM on October 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yep, googling around for "Dr. Riki Ott" reveals her to be a nut as well. She has a Huffington Post blog and makes a lot of unsupported claims about the dispersants, chiefly by sleight-of-hand: workers cleaning up tar clumps and similar wear hazmat suits, therefore everyone near the gulf will be poisoned by dispersants.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:40 AM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, apologies for the derail. I remember why Trisha Springstead's name alarmed me for a second. She's the woman who's been coming up with "cures" to Morgellons Fibre> disease, a disease that is essentially make-believe and classified as delusional parasitosis by most of the medical profession. I really wouldn't trust a thing she says about the cleanup issue. And it's sad that people like this get airtime to de-legitimize the actual tragedy of this mess.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:43 AM on October 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I guess what I hope for is more reporting on the health issues of the area. Either these reports will be debunked by other news agencies and other health professionals, or they won't be. I'm skeptical that there wouldn't be any health effects from so many hydrocarbons being released into an area over a period of months, but I'd like to be proven wrong in my beliefs.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 AM on October 30, 2010


WOO SIREN!
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2010


From the beginning, the Florida Oil Spill Law weblog has been my preferred source for a thorough documentation of the effects of the spill. Long after the other outlets have closed up shop, the posts haven't even slowed down here. It's shocking, some of the things that get posted there.

Ok, *most* of the things that get posted there.
posted by ewagoner at 10:14 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Define "detoxed." It isn't a word. It isn't a treatment for any condition. It isn't real. Read about 19th century miracle-cure peddlers and compare with today's sellers of remedies, holistic and otherwise.
posted by Shike at 10:14 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


These people may have some actual real problems, the last thing they need is an invasion of Gillian McKeiths and Kinoki foot pads...
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on October 30, 2010


I'm concentrating on the gist of the Al Jazeera piece, which is that the poisons that have settled into the environment around the Gulf Coast will likely have untold impacts on the bodies of people who live there for years to come. It's not a scientific journal conclusion, but it bears more of the stamp of truth to me than the "It's all hunky-dory now! Yay!" line of Thad Allen and his ilk.
posted by blucevalo at 10:23 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Define "detoxed." It isn't a word. It isn't a treatment for any condition. It isn't real.

Right, well, not trying to defend any quackery which may be included under the umbrella word "detox", but it actually IS a work, and it IS a treatment for conditions, and it IS real.

Detox is short for detoxification. It's a process during which toxins are removed and cleansed from the body. This can include drug or alcohol detoxification, which is used to help an individual withstand withdrawal symptoms. It can also refer to natural processes within animals, as the body naturally detoxifies itself.

I know it's kind of been taken over by the alternative medicine community to talk about the (questionable) benefits of all juice diets or colonics or sticking white pads on your feet while you sleep and whatnot... But it's a term which does have meaning beyond that.
posted by hippybear at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


I spent the summer working on the oil spill as a wildlife biologist, and this doesn't surprise me at all. Those chemicals were NASTY, and if you happened to be downwind of a large plume, it would make you cough. My level of exposure was infinitely less than those folks working offshore who had direct contact with the oil/dispersant; I can 100% believe that a lot of those guys, or anyone else exposed to it for long periods of time, like coastal residents, are having health problems.
posted by tryniti at 10:38 AM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


'Detoxification' describes a desired outcome. An outcome is not a process. The body's own efforts to cleanse/purge itself are not a 'treatment.' You can't actively detoxify another person.

This kind of sloppy thinking is just as unhelpful as religious superstition, and it's a key reason I stopped identifying as a hippie. Please stop perpetuating ignorance.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:53 AM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


My level of exposure was infinitely less than those folks working offshore...

No, it wasn't.
posted by indubitable at 11:11 AM on October 30, 2010


While our "journalists" are following the Charlie Sheen story Al Jazeera is reporting on toxic illnesses in the Gulf.

Makes sense, I guess.
posted by tommasz at 11:45 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Similar to how the wild claims made by certain people in regards to the amount of oil spewing from the BP gusher caused people to become distrustful of all third party estimates (many of which were probably more accurate than government/BP estimates), this sort of thing will cause people to become distrustful of all claims of health repercussions of the BP gusher.

Very unfortunate.

The bright side is that, as with nuclear decay, all the nastiest most volatile shit most likely to damage you dissipates (well, more accurately: "is diluted") more quickly precisely because it's the nastiest most volatile shit. That said, predatory organisms living in the water can bioaccumulate levels of toxins much higher than the background level because they eat other organisms with their own toxin load, thus adding it to their own, all the way up the food chain.

I would, therefore, be far less skeptical of claims that people who eat a lot of seafood from the Gulf end up getting poisoned by whatever less volatile compounds remain in the water and sediment.
posted by wierdo at 11:50 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, you know, there does seem to be a bit of a consensus online about detoxification being a process...

But I'm really not going to argue the term with you. I don't believe in the alternative medicine part of it (despite being one of your loathed hippies), but I know a few people who have been through genuine medical detoxification, so I'm pretty sure it actually is a process.
posted by hippybear at 12:00 PM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can't actively detoxify another person.

Well there is chelation therapy for heavy metal poisoning (not technically a toxin), milk thistle for mushroom related toxins, activated charcoal to flush the digestive tract, etc... etc...

I agree with your point that generally it seems like the best we can do is make sure people are stable while their own bodies mechanisms flush whatever excess of toxins cause a particular problem, but it depends a little bit on the circumstances.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:24 PM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, an investigation by an Al Jazeera online correspondent finds toxic illnesses linked to BP oil dispersants along the Gulf coast.

*smile*

Keep using that thar Qatar oil - Now with 90% more free of Gulf of Mexico spillage.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:21 PM on October 30, 2010


Yep, googling around for "Dr. Riki Ott" reveals her to be a nut as well.

Wow. You might want to try googling a little harder. Dr Ott is not a nut; she's a PhD in marine toxicology who's been involved in studying the Exxon Valdez spill since the day it happened. She's an expert witness, serves on EPA special advisory groups and as a technical advisor to the State of Alaska on water quality and toxicology issues. How qualified are you to dismiss her statements?

Dispersants lyse cells, the cells die rapidly and may become necrotic. That's not "kook" that's established fact. Try googling it. These people are showing the symptoms of chemical poisoning. I hope that someone is collecting a whole lot of tissue samples across a very broad area right now. Because obviously they are all going to be dismissed as malingerers and kooks.
posted by fshgrl at 1:27 PM on October 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Drugs aren’t going to help these people. They need to be detoxed."

[citation needed]
posted by deadmessenger at 1:50 PM on October 30, 2010


I realize this was a well thought out post, but it reads to me like:

Previously Burning House Now Smoking Exposed Basement Filled With Ash
posted by jscott at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Between the article being something of an anecdata / soft science nightmare, and Al-Jazeera absolutely loving to publish anything critical of the US, I find myself somewhat skeptical. I'm totally willing to consider the possibility that this is true, and in fact I consider it highly likely, but they're just not pursuing it in the rigorous, scientific manner they need to (although parts do approach the level of rigour they need.) Anecdotes, rumors, and personal accounts are dangerous to use in medical science at the best of times, and they're downright deceptive when you have a result you'd really like to see. You can cherry-pick your way into any conclusion, and you can do it without ever realizing you're doing it.

Also, they need to check their sources - the inclusion of Trisha Springstead and that quote in the article do nothing but help discredit it, really.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:41 PM on October 30, 2010


The OP is editorializing.
posted by Bonzai at 4:23 PM on October 30, 2010


someone said we suck hind teat, and that's the message to take away. the US need for oil is too great to threaten these companies' production overmuch. There is plenty to investigate, but it's much easier for authorities to dismiss or ignore these claims than to do all the work to determine if they are related to the spill, and to pay out damages.

air sampling is happening, but not really on the scale necessary, or in methodically sound ways. Historically, it's been on a strictly CYA rather than scientific basis, even if we discount collusion between industry and LDEQ/ EPA. on the positive side of things, there has been more air sampling on the gulf coast post-BP than ever before.

here is an environmental non-profit that has been dealing with these kind of health issues for years. they put air samplers in the hands of people who live on the fencelines of the refineries, and fight to make state health data public, so that the epidemiology of these illnesses can be studied.
http://labucketbrigade.org

They also work to publish a lot of public data that LDEQ shoves under a filing cabinet.
here is an online database of the refinery "accidents" in the area, self-reported by the companies. I put scare quotes around "accidents" because, although that is the official parlance, many of these incidents are highly predictable and could be prevented. We have seen the same kind of bungling over the drilling of the Macondo well.

for example, ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge

Here is their "crisis map," originally designed to track illness of fenceline communities, but rolled out for the oil disaster.
posted by eustatic at 7:49 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other news: Halliburton Knew About Bad Cement Job Before the Spill
posted by homunculus at 9:02 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


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