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Illness Plagues Gulf Residents in BP's Aftermath

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Increasing numbers of U.S. Gulf Coast residents attribute ongoing sicknesses to BP's oil disaster and use of toxic dispersants.

I have a bruising rash all around my stomach," Denise Rednour of Long
Beach, Mississippi told IPS. "This looks like bleeding under the skin."

lives near the coast and has been walking on the beach nearly every day
since a BP oil rig exploded on Apr. 20. She has noticed a dramatically
lower number of wildlife, and said that many days the smell of chemicals
from what she believes are BP's toxic dispersants fill the air.

Yet her primary concern is that she and many people she knows in the area have gotten sick.

have pain in my stomach, stabbing pains, in isolated areas," Rednour
added. "The sharp stabbing pain is all over my abdomen where this
discolouration is, it's in my arm pits and around my breasts. I have
this dry hacking cough, my sinuses are swelling up, and I have an
insatiable thirst."

Rednour's recent problems are a continuation
of others that have beset her for months, including headaches,
respiratory problems, runny nose, nausea, and bleeding from the ears.

response to the massive spill last summer that released at least 4.9
million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP admitted to using at
least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit dispersants - which have been
banned in 19 countries - to sink the oil. The dispersants contain
chemicals that many scientists and toxicologists have warned are
dangerous to humans, marine life and wildlife.
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A March 1987
report titled "Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity", by the National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), states: "The acute
neurotoxic effects of organic solvent exposure in workers and laboratory
animals are narcosis, anesthesia, central nervous system (CNS)
depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and death."

chemicals and chemical compounds listed in the NIOSH report, such as
styrene, toluene and xylene, are now present in the Gulf of Mexico as
the result of BP's dispersants mixing with BP's crude oil.

Captain Lori DeAngelis runs dolphin tours out of Orange Beach, Alabama.

my muscles hurt," DeAngelis told IPS. "By the time I climb my stairs
every muscle in my legs are in spasm. I'm coughing, I have a constant
sore throat and hoarse voice."

In addition to these symptoms, her
memory is fading. "I have totally blanked out on a lot of important
stuff," she said. "I can hardly remember having talked to people who've
interviewed me. That's how bad it is. I'm having to bring pen and paper
with me and write down everything so I don't forget."
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Last month,
Dr. Wilma Subra, a chemist and Macarthur Fellow, conducted blood tests
for volatile solvents on eight people who live and work along the coast.

eight individuals tested had Ethylbenzene and m,p- Xylene in their
blood in excess of the NHANES 95th Percentile," according to Subra's
report. "Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane are volatile organic
chemicals that are present in the BP Crude Oil. The blood of all three
females and five males had chemicals that are found in the BP Crude

DeAngelis was one of the people tested.

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DAHR JAMAIL He is author of the book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. Jamail's work has been featured on National Public Radio, the Guardian, The Nation, and The Progressive. He has received many (more...)

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