Louisiana Environmental Action Network

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Results of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) Survey of the Human Health Impacts Due to the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Post: April 20 2012 in: BP Oil Spill

Survey of Individuals from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida

April 20, 2012

Prepared by:
Wilma Subra
Subra Company/Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Marylee Orr
Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Paul Orr
Lower Mississippi River Keeper
Michael Orr
Louisiana Environmental Action Network

Results of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) Survey of the Human Health Impacts Due to the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and burned in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010. Eleven workers were killed. The rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Large quantities of Louisiana Sweet Crude were released into the Gulf of Mexico from the Macondo well for 87 days.

The burning Deepwater Horizon oilrig.The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns on April 21, 2010. Photo courtesy of Nick Sellers.

Dispersants, Corexit 9527 and 9500 were applied to the crude oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico and subsurface near the well head in an attempt to prevent the crude oil from contaminating the coastal areas. For every 93 gallons of crude oil released into the environment by the Macondo well, 1 gallon of dispersant was applied to the crude oil.

BP crude oil in the marsh of the Mississippi River Delta.Thick flows of BP crude oil fill the marsh of the Mississippi River Delta. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Dubinsky Photography

The crude oil slick reached the coast of Louisiana nine days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded. The resulting enormous oil spill contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal and wetland areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida with crude oil, dispersants and dispersed crude oil.

Marsh grass covered in BP oil.Oiled marsh grass lines the Louisiana Gulf shoreline at the mouth of Oyster Bayou. Photo courtesy of Michael Orr.

Community members in the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida were exposed to and made ill as a result of their exposure to the crude oil and dispersants. Clean up workers hired to control, contain and cleanup the crude oil were exposed to and contaminated with the crude oil, dispersants and dispersed crude oil and made very ill.

The pathways of exposure to community members and clean up workers consisted of inhalation of crude oil and aerosols of crude oil and dispersants, dermal contact with crude oil, dispersants and dispersed oil, and ingestion of crude oil and dispersant contaminated media and contaminated food materials.

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the crude oil continues to be present in the subsurface waters of the Gulf of Mexico and continues to wash onshore on a daily basis along the wetlands, marshes, estuaries and beaches of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida in the form of tar balls, mats and strings. Coastal community members, commercial fishermen, and cleanup workers continue to be exposed and continue to be made ill by their ongoing exposure to the crude oil in the environment in which they live, earn a living and recreate.

A log of tar on the beach at Ship Island.One of countless logs of tar that rolled ashore at Ship Island, MS in August 2011. Photo courtesy of John Gooding

Health Survey

Individuals from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were surveyed using the health survey instrument developed and distributed by LEAN. The health survey forms were completed between May 2011 and the end of February 2012. The results of the health surveys were evaluated by Wilma Subra.

Health Survey Participants

The participants in the survey were primarily from Louisiana and Mississippi. Individuals from Louisiana comprised 50% of those surveyed. Participants from Mississippi consisted of 43% of those surveyed. Alabama and Florida participants comprised 7% of the surveyed participants.

Individuals between the ages of 7 and 76 participated in the health survey. The individuals participating in the survey consisted of 60% males between the ages of 19 and 76 and 40% females between the ages of 7 and 65.

State Participants Male Female
Louisiana 50% 34% 16%
Mississippi 43% 25% 18%
Alabama/Florida 7% 1% 6%
Total   60% 40%

Locations Where Health Survey Participants Reside

Louisiana

Buras Galliano
Metairie Golden Meadow
Thibodeaux Gray
Gheens Houma
Larose Chauvin
Cut Off Montegut

Mississippi

Benndale Lucedale
Ocean Springs Escatawpa
McLain Moss Point
Vancleave Pascagoula
Gautier

Alabama

Coden
Elberta
Irvington
Foley

Florida

Seacrest Beach
Santa Rosa Beach

Frequency of Illness

The individuals surveyed reported being ill often, on an ongoing basis, everyday and daily. The frequency of being ill was reported as 1 to 2 days per week to 7 days per week, with the average reported illness event occurring 4.4 days per week. On a monthly basis the individuals surveyed reported being ill from 1 to 30 days per month, with the average reported illness rate of 9 days per month.

Frequency of Illness

Days per Week: Average: Days per Month: Average:
1-2 to 7 days 4.4 days 1 to 30 9 days

Access to Health Care Providers

A total of 48% of the individuals interviewed had access to health care, while 35% had medical insurance. Of the total individuals that participated in the survey, 20% were unemployed since the BP spill and thus lacked medical insurance.

The health care providers utilized by the individuals surveyed were located at family doctors offices, urgent care clinics, hospitals, charity hospitals, and veterans hospitals. The comment most frequently recorded was that there was a lack of doctors with knowledge of chemical exposure and chemical toxicology.

Smoking History

A total of 24% of the individuals participating in the survey smoked. These individuals smoked from 1/3 pack to 2 packs of cigarettes per day.

Exposure

Of the individuals surveyed, 45% of the individuals reported working in the BP oil spill cleanup efforts and being exposed to the crude oil and dispersants. In addition to the clean up workers, the coastal residents completing the survey identified being exposed to crude oil and dispersants from the BP spill. The routes of exposure identified by all of the individuals surveyed consisted of:

  • 77% being exposed through contaminated air
  • 74% being exposed to contaminated water
  • 64% being exposed to contaminated wetlands and beaches
  • 36% being exposed to contaminated tissue

The description of the specific exposure pathways described by the cleanup workers that were surveyed consisted of:

  • Crude oil on surface of the water in the Gulf and Bay systems
  • Crude oil offshore
  • Oil soaked booms
  • Crude oil and dispersants on beaches and wetlands
  • Sprayed with dispersants while working on the oil spill cleanup
  • Exposed to chemical solutions used to clean equipment in association with the oil spill cleanup
  • Smoke from burning of crude oil

The description of the specific exposure pathways described by the coastal community members consisted of:

  • Crude oil and dispersants on beaches and wetlands
  • Smoke from burning of crude oil
  • Washing contaminated clothing
  • Consuming contaminated oysters

Locations in Louisiana Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed:

  • Gulf of Mexico in area of Deepwater Horizon site
  • Gulf of Mexico between the Deepwater Horizon site and the coast of Louisiana
  • Lake Borgne
  • Chandeleur Sound
  • Chandeleur Islands
  • Brenton Sound
  • All around Mississippi River Delta
  • North Pass
  • Main Pass
  • Pass-A-Loutre
  • South Pass
  • Southwest Pass
  • East Bay
  • West Bay
  • South of Venice
  • Venice to Grand Isle
  • Plaquemines Parish Marshes
  • Barataria Bay
  • NE Corner of Barataria Bay
  • Bay Jimmy
  • Nautical Point
  • Grand Isle
  • Fourchon
  • Caminada Bay
  • Leeville Lake
  • Leeville Marina
  • West Side of Bayou Lafourche
  • West Side of Lake Raccourci
  • Philo Brice Island
  • Belle Pass
  • Timbalier Bay
  • West Side of Bay Liquette
  • Lake Andrea
  • Terrebonne Bay West and East Sides
  • Bay Tambor, East Side
  • Gulf of Mexico off Cocodrie, Dulac and Chauvin

Locations in Louisiana Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed:Locations in Louisiana Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

Locations in Mississippi Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

  • Gulf of Mexico and Coastal areas off of Hancock and Harrison Counties
  • Shorelines of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties
  • Mississippi Sound
  • Bay St. Louis
  • Pass Christian
  • Long Beach
  • Gulfport
  • Biloxi
  • Pascagoula
  • Cat Island
  • Ship Island
  • Horn Island

Locations in Mississippi Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals SurveyedLocations in Mississippi Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

Locations in Alabama Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

  • Grand Bay
  • Bayou La Batre
  • Dauphin Island
  • Bon Secour
  • Gulf Shores
  • Orange Beach
  • Perdido Pass

Locations in Alabama Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals SurveyedLocations in Alabama Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

Locations in Florida Where Exposure to BP Crude Oil and Dispersants Occurred as Reported by Individuals Surveyed

  • Panama City Beach
  • Santa Rosa Beach

Medical Conditions

Prior to the BP spill, a few of the surveyed individuals reported having high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and asthma. The individuals that filled out the health survey were evaluated as to the number and types of health symptoms experienced since the BP Spill. The cleanup workers reported up to 29 health symptoms since the time of the BP spill. The individuals surveyed that were not clean up workers, but were also exposed to the crude oil and dispersants, reported up to 28 health symptoms since the BP Spill.

The health symptoms listed by the individuals surveyed, in response to a request to describe the health symptoms experienced since the BP Spill on April 20, 2010, consisted of headaches, fatigue and loss of memory as the most prevalent. The second set of most prevalent symptoms consisted of nausea, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pains, and skin irritation, lesions and boils. The third set of most prevalent symptoms consisted of vomiting, coughing, numbness in fingers and toes, ear ache, and abdominal pain.

The most common medical conditions experienced by the individuals surveyed, after the BP spill, based on a check list of medical symptoms consisted of the following:

Medical Conditions

Medical Condition %
Headaches 87
Dizziness 72
Cough 72
Fatigue 63
Eye, Nose, Throat and Lung Irritation 63
Nausea 59
Diarrhea 55
Confusion 48
Depression 46
Loss of Balance 46
Chest Pains and Tightness 46
Difficulty Breathing 45
Skin Irritation and Damage 45
Respiratory Impacts 29
Vomiting 25
Neurological Damage/Nervous System Damage 23
Hypertension 20
Central Nervous System Effects 20
Decrease Lung Function 18
Gastrointestinal Disturbance 17
Allergic Reaction 15
Immune System Damage and Suppression 14
Asthma Attacks 13
Blood Disorders 13
Harmone Level Disruption 13
Cardiovascular System Stress 11
Infertility 10
Aplastic Anemia 9
Endocrine Disruption 9
Damage to Liver, Lungs and Kidneys 9
Damage to Respiratory System 9

Skin leasions on a diver.A diver experiencing persistant skin leasions since the BP Oil Disaster.

Respiratory Impacts

Twenty-four of the 36 individuals surveyed (67%) reported having respiratory ailments.

Nose,Throat and Lung Irritation 63%
Breathing Difficulties 45%
Damage to Respiratory System 9%
TOTAL 69%

A mother holds her childs medecine.A Gulf Coast mother shows some of the medicines that her son has been prescribed. Photo courtesy of Drew Landry.

Respiratory Impacts as it Relates to Smokers

Of the 69% of the individuals that had respiratory ailments, only 22% of the individuals smoked.

Conclusions

Crude oil from the BP Disaster continues to be present in the coastal wetlands, estuaries, and beaches along the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. Crude oil continues to be present subsurface in the Gulf of Mexico and continues to wash on shore on a daily basis.

Coastal communities continue to be exposed to the crude oil in the coastal environments.

As a result of previous as well as ongoing exposure to the crude oil, community members have been made ill.

The health impacts experienced by the coastal community members correspond to the health impacts associated with the chemical components of the BP crude and the dispersants.

Recommendations

Stop or at a minimum reduce the exposure to the crude remaining in the environment.

Provide adequate, affordable and appropriate medical care by medical professionals who understand chemical exposure for current and former cleanup workers, fishermen and coastal residents who are sick from exposure to the BP Crude Oil and Dispersants.

Educate health care providers on the physical and chemical health impacts and appropriate treatment methods for exposure to the BP crude and dispersants.

Develop and implement a long term health tracking program for all of the populations exposed to the BP crude and dispersant.

Develop strategies to improve the overall health and quality of life for the very sick populations negatively impacted by the BP spill.


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