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For residents and cleanup workers, health risks of Gulf oil spill remain uncertain

Last year, George Jackson was one of hundreds of Louisiana cleanup workers who reported health problems that they believed were caused by the BP oil spill — headaches, nausea and vomiting, just to name a few.Health professionals are still unsure whether the oil spill has caused the workers’ symptoms, and hope a major study just launched by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences  will eventually provide some answers. But workers and  residents in the communities affected by the spill want answers now.

A year later, Need to Know’s medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay checks in to see how George Jackson is doing and explores what’s being done to monitor the health effects of the spill.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.



  • Eileen Senn

    Here are some of the major chemical exposures Gulf cleanup workers. To obtain complete and reliable toxicity, safety, and chemical emergency information on specific chemicals, review New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets (HSFSs)

    Crude oil contains gases including butane, ethane, methane, propane and hydrogen sulfide; liquids including pentane, isopentane, n-hexane, n-heptane, n-octane, n-nonane, n-decane, n-undecane, hexadecane, cyclopropane, cyclobutane, cyclopentane, cyclohexane, cycloheptane, cyclooctane, cyclononane, benzene, ethyl benzene, toluene, xylene; metals including arsenic, iron, nickel, copper, vanadium; and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), including anthracene, benzo-a-pyrene, chrysene, naphthalene, phenanthrene, and pyrene.

    Weathered crude: As crude oil “weathers” from exposure to water and sun, the more water-soluble and volatile components are reduced and the less water-soluble and volatile components such as metals and PAHs are concentrated.

    Dispersant Corexit EC9500A
    Contains10 to 30% petroleum distillates, 1 to 5% propylene glycol and 10 to 30% proprietary organic sulfonic acid salt. It also contains metals – arsenic, chromium, and copper.

    Dispersant Corexit EC9527A
    Contains 30 to 60% 2-Butoxy ethanol, 1-5% propylene glycol, and 10 to 30% proprietary organic sulfonic acid salt. It also contains six metals – chromium has the highest percent.

    Dispersant-coated crude oil micelles same ingredients as crude oil and dispersants combined. Micelles make the oil more water soluble and bioavailable. It is not clear if they prevent or slow evaporation of volatile oil components.

    Combustion products of crude oil: sulfuric acid, acrolein, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, particulate, 1,4-dioxane, and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

  • Anonymous

    Carl Safina seems to have a one-track mind, only having significant concern about Global Warming implications.

    Apparently he subscribes to the “spread it around” theory that toxins are just fine if we can disperse them widely.

    Personally, I doubt that much of the mammoth amount of spilled oil has truly been broken down, by whatever means, into harmless substances. Really we have millions and millions of pounds of toxins on the Gulf floor, on the beaches, in the wildlife, and spread widely via ocean and air currents.

    A body of science is growing that supports the idea that toxic substances have negative effects on living systems at concentration of parts per trillion or even less. Our unconscious, foolish civilization dumps tens of thousands of man-made chemicals and pharmaceuticals into the environment, many of which take eons to break down because nature doesn’t know what to do with them. We know very little of what effects even the individual chemicals have, let alone those of the combinations they form with other natural and man-made substances.

    I am not comforted.

  • Sistertocommonsense

    TO: Members of US Congress
    Lisa Jackson of the EPA and all EPA Dept Heads
    The US Dept of Health
    National Institute of Health aka NIH

    FROM: Trisha Springstead, RN

    DATE: March 28, 2011:


    I am a registered nurse licensed in Florida. I trained in medicine at Loma Linda University, UCSB, and Riverside State College. I have over 36 years experience in the medical field in a myriad of specialties and have been clinical educator and administrator for two HMA Hospitals. My husband Richard W. Springstead is an MD and has seen a few of these patients with me. He is an orthopaedic Surgeon with 35 years and a Graduated from Emory College of Medicine. He has listened to me talk to these patients and is willing to help but in order to start up a clinic we need assistance for these patients. Richard and I both have taken the Certification Courses from Metametrix Clinical Labs in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout disaster I have been working with patients from the Gulf States that are demonstrating a wide variety of serious symptoms of toxic chemical exposure and poisoning. I currently have over 200 families reporting to me. These families are terribly ill. They have shortness of breath, horrific skin lesions, neurological impairments, and short term memory loss. Their immune systems have been highly compromised, they are bleeding from every orifice, bruising is occurring spontaneously, their lung capacities are declining and their hearts are enlarging. Most are financially so broke that they can not even begin to afford the necessary testing for VOC’s or PAHs, let alone treatment. This truly is a public health crisis that urgently needs to be addressed.

    Metametrix Clinical Laboratory is the lab of choice for these people and we are begging for doctors and funding to be able to help these people. Many of them are going to
    die quickly, and are dying from undiagnosed poisoning. I assume because there is no insurance coding for “chemical poisoning,” that this is one of the key reasons they are being misdiagnosed with the flu, or mycoplasmic pneumonia, delusional, due to short term memory loss and confusion from elevated hexane levels, and Polyaromatic Hydrocarbon levels (from exposure to water, air and the vicarious spraying of Corexit.) Without a defined insurance codes, the doctors can not bill the insurance companies and be reimbursed for their work.

    From the blood test results we have seen, the levels of Hexane in bloods samples is creeping up to the 95th percentiles in the population I’ve been seeing, indicating that the air quality in this area is contributing to the demise of the health of the local population. One of our dearest friends and friends, Lisa Nelson, was a lovely young woman in her 30’s. She died two weeks ago. All indications are that it was as a direct result of exposure to Corexit on the beach last September. I personally know of approx 20 other people who have died or whose deaths are imminent. These people are scared, have families and children who are also becoming ill as the air becomes warmer.

    A large number of the people I am seeing were oil cleanup response workers for the Deepwater Horizon and they are now very ill. Per my observations, they are consistently being misdiagnosed by ERs, medical clinics and hospitals. In addition to the lack of the reimbursement insurance coding issue, few doctors and others in the medical profession are educated in Environmental Medicine and this is exacerbating the situation.

    From numerous first-hand reports I have received, the spraying of the toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit goes on to this day on the beaches and open waters. This is completely unacceptable and must be stopped. I have been told by about over 1OO of the patients reporting to me, that they witnessed Corexit (being sprayed from a boat, a plane and I have my own first-hand experience of watching planes spraying at night in Applachacola and Panama City.
    I would be happy to testify to the above statements and can provide more detailed information, if it is needed (within the legal framework of patient confidentiality laws).


    Trisha Springstead, RN MS
    Dr Richard W. Springstead MD