Gulf Coast residents and clean up workers have found chemicals present in BP's oil in their own bloodstreams.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi -- Not long after BP's oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, 2010, Lorrie Williams knew something was very wrong with her health.
She began getting frequent headaches, was experiencing shortness of breath, her eyes were burning, and she was having nightmares.
Williams, her husband Bud Waltman, and their 10-year-old son, Noah, have all tested positive for having chemicals in their blood that are also present in BP's oil. Her 25-year-old son has been to the emergency room twice for hemorrhaging blood from his nose, and several of their neighbors also have experienced ongoing respiratory problems.
Her two-year-old granddaughter has been sick constantly.
Lorrie Williams and Bud Waltman have both tested positive for having chemicals present in BP's oil in their bloodstreams [Erica Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]
Williams and Waltman, both crab fishers, live less than a kilometer from the Mississippi coast, and blame the illnesses in their family on exposure to chemicals from BP's oil and the dispersants used to sink it.
"I'm really sick, and I fear that I'm not gonna be here in a year," Williams told Al Jazeera. "There are days that I can't get up, and I can't eat. And I can't do the things that I used to do, with Bubba, and my grandbaby. And Noah. And then I worry about my mom. And I have nothing to leave them but a crab boat and some crab pots."
Williams stated that she and her family are not alone.
"There are now dozens, if not hundreds, of other Gulf Coast residents and former oil clean up workers that have also tested positive for having BP's chemicals in their blood," she added. "And for many of us, the problem seems to be getting worse with time."
Volatile organic chemicals
The 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf last year was the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, affecting people living near the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Seemingly compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants, which are banned by many countries, including the UK. According to many scientists, these dispersants create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil.
Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist in New Iberia, Louisiana, has tested the blood of BP cleanup workers and residents.
"Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP crude oil," Dr Subra explained to Al Jazeera. "The acute impacts of these chemicals include nose and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, lung irritation, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting."