Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Nearly Every Cleanup Worker from Exxon Valdez Now Dead?"

Update:  Let me clarify something before anyone else calls me a conspiracy theorist moonbat.  You'd have to read this whole piece to actually get to the part where you learn I'm not saying that everyone associated with the Exxon Valdez is dead or that cleaning up in the Gulf will have the same result.  My thesis here is that nobody actually knows what the dispersants are doing to people down there on the cleanup front, not even the Surgeon General.  This is a cautionary piece, not a a piece to advance a conspiracy plot.  Get over yourself.

Greta Perry linked this article from Business Insider on Facebook last night that states nearly every cleanup worker from the Exxon Valdez is now dead.  Why?  From the fumes?  From natural causes?  From chemicals?  More explanation, please.  This prompted me to do some digging today.  I read the article, watched the video clip, and my initial reaction was, "Aww c'mon.  Hyperbole.  Fear mongering by CNN and their 'expert'."  It was 21 years ago, to be sure, and are they dead because of the spill?  Surely not ALL of them.  Questions.

Are you sure that you want to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  In a previous article we documented a number of the health dangers from this oil spill that many scientists are warning us of, and now it has been reported on CNN that the vast majority of those who worked to clean up the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska are now dead.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Almost all of them are dead.

Merle Savage is one of those that helped cleanup the beaches in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez spill and she is trying to warn the workers in the Gulf and inform them what happened in 1989..  She wrote a book about her experience:  Silence in the Sound.  Her website is here.  Savage explains that her health problems began almost immediately:

After working for 3 days on the oily beaches, I had a persistent cough that developed into bronchitis, headaches, sore throat, upset stomach and fatigue. On the 4th day I reported to the sick bay and was given medication by the doctor who was supplied by VECO, and on the way to my room, I fainted. I had 3 days of bed rest, but went back to work with recurring symptoms. Of the workers that I supervised 80% had the same medical problems. I wonder how many other cleanup workers, like me, went home thinking we would get better – but didn’t? The symptoms escalated until my medical condition took over my life, and was so bad that I have been unable to hold a job. 

Savage breathed in crude oil and dispersant for weeks as she and her coworkers cleaned up the beaches that summer. One of the dispersants used that summer was Corexit 9580.  Another was Inipol EAP22, also toxic.

The dispersants BP is using today is a variation of the Corexit dispersant used in 1989.  They're using Corexit 9500 and 9527. The EPA freely admits that they just don't know about the exact toxicity of them on animals or humans:

It is also important to note that the LC50 value may be different for a given chemical depending on the route of exposure (e.g., skin contact, ingestion, inhalation) and can be different for different animal species, ages and sexes. The LC50 is only one source of toxicity information and only provides information for the species and concentrations of chemical being tested under laboratory conditions. Toxicity tests resulting from controlled laboratory experiments may not accurately represent the degree of toxicity seen in the environment because of factors such as breakdown of the chemical, different species, different routes of exposure, age, sex, stage of development (e.g., adult versus larval).

To protect workers, the EPA advises hazmat gear and masks:

People working with dispersants are strongly advised to use a half face filter mask or an air-supplied breathing apparatus to protect their noses, throats, and lungs, and they should wear nitrile or PVC gloves, coveralls, boots, and chemical splash goggles to keep dispersants off skin and out of their eyes.
BP will provide these upon request.

As of today, BP reports use of more than 1.62 million gallons of dispersant.

Corexit 9527 was used initially in the Gulf but was discontinued  because it was considered too toxic.  Corexit 9500 is considered much better:

By last week, the EPA and Nalco had both released the ingredient list for COREXIT 9500 in response to widespread public concern. Its constituents include butanedioic acid (a wetting agent in cosmetics), sorbitan (found in everything from baby bath to food), and petroleum distillates in varying proportions—and it decomposes almost entirely in 28 days. "All six [ingredients] are used in day-to-day life—in mouthwash, toothpaste, ice cream, pickles," Ramesh argues. "We believe COREXIT 9500 is very safe."

But, as this Scientific American article points out, all dispersants contain carcinogens.  There are reports that Corexit has been banned in the UK but to be clear, it's only been banned in use on rocky shoreline.  It may or may not be used elsewhere.

Reports of illness in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states are beginning to mount.  As of June 29:

Exposure to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in 162 cases of illnesses reported to the Louisiana state health department, according to a report released Monday. Of those cases, 128 involved workers on oil rigs or individuals involved in the oil spill cleanup efforts, the report said.
And that's just Louisiana. This article in The American Chronicle suggests that the Gulf Oil Syndrome is on the horizon and suggests that many won't be taken seriously:

The Gulf oil spill will likely lead to a new condition known as Gulf Oil Syndrome (GOS), a syndrome of toxicity related to 911, GWS, and MCS, which will initially be denied and labeled as psychiatric to protect the financial interests of responsible parties.

The Exxon medical records were sealed by the courts until 2023 and the Miami Herald reports that long term studies have never been done on the effects of that disaster, so it's difficult for us to know what to expect with this crisis.  Last week U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin reiterated this problem:

"Current scientific literature is inconclusive with regard to the potential hazards resulting from the spill," Benjamin said. "Some scientists predict little or no toxic effect ... while other scientists express serious concerns about the potential short-term and long-term impacts the exposure to oil and dispersants could have on the health of responders and our communities."
That lack of published, peer-reviewed study of the Exxon Valdez cleanup workers has made protecting the growing number workers in the Gulf of Mexico all the more difficult and has Alaska watchdogs warning that BP and government regulators are repeating mistakes that made people sick a generation ago.

What are the options?  What are the alternatives?  Environmentalists would probably suggest that we quit drilling and that would solve all this, but everyone with half a brain knows that's not realistic.  Not unless you want to turn back the clock 200 years. I don't have the answers. I don't know how many people died as a result of the Exxon cleanup. 

People want to get out there and clean the beaches, the wildlife, and put things back to normal.  BP has an obligation to clean up the oil.  But at what cost does it all come?  The state of Louisiana is already asking BP to set up a fund for mental health help but what about the physical medical needs these clean up workers will be facing?  Is that to come from the $20 billion? 

And that's the tragedy of the whole episode.  That's where you see that this is an end to a way of life on the Gulf coast.  Scientists are already predicting a huge dead zone where wildlife cannot survive. Some will say it's all fear mongering and hype and that the Gulf will survive.  Everything will be okay.  Life goes on.  We survive.  I sure hope so.

Merle Savage is advising great caution and wants people in the Gulf cleanup to learn from the mistakes of the Exxon Valdez.

Update:  Via Hot Air, why is the government blocking access to the media seeking health information?


Red said...

Jindal may be blocking access to public records in the interests of future litigation say when BP starts denying payouts for medical claims.

Pat Austin said...

He probably is, and that's his explanation.

I think the Scientific American headline is intended to scare and I intentionally used it in my headline; I don't know how many people from the Exxon cleanup died as a result of it and surely not all of them have because Merle Savage is still telling her story. Thus, the fear tactics in the SA headline (and mine, I guess).

But I do think Jindal is expecting problems and I think everyone might be wise to take precautions.

david7134 said...

Scientific American is hardly a non-biased publication. They have an enviromental agenda that they are pushing and will do or say anything to get it through. They are very big on human induced cliamte change.

I worked around oil everyday when I was going to college and medical school. When we finished we were coated in oil and had been like that for most of the day. We were exposed to every gas and toxin that you can think of. The only people that I know that became sick did so from smoking. That was it. As to the medical claims, I would estimate that 100% of those are bogus. The class of people that I have seen doing the clean up will try everything to get a handout.

Georgfelis said...

Ah, Summer, when the conspiracy theoreticians come staggering out of their basements to blink in the light of day, and make Pronouncements of Great Doom and Gloom, only to go screaming back into the darkness when confronted by a request for sources and facts.

Why don’t they show numbers from the statisticians in the Life and Health Insurance industry on this? After all, this kind of indicator of premature death and health problems would be quite important for a company who wants to remain fiscally viable. And insurance companies deal with cold hard numbers and facts, as opposed to media flacks and hyperventilating authors who are looking for the almighty dollar. Could it be that these grand conspiracy theories are just….stupid?

I’m just watching the frenzy, waiting for the inevitable theory that somehow combines the melting point of steel, the Trilateralists, Gold, and the BP oil leak into one Grand Unified Theory of Moonbattery.

msavage12 said...

Please view the video and help me pass the message to President Obama, the Gulf residents and BP oil spill cleanup workers.

The same video is on YouTube, for your convenience. Thank you.

ck said...

David, you hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

I know of a couple who are still alive - one in the Dallas area, another in the Woodlands, TX.

BoR said...

You know me. I love a good conspiracy theory.

Seawitch Artist said...

I've been reading about this today, this is the best write up so I shared it to my facebook profile. Well written, can't be ignored!

db pedersen said...

@ david7314: whatever prison you're locked in to keep the zombies @ bay, just stay in there. we'll leave you alone.
I guess this makes me an exxon valdez survivor (where are they handing out the handouts, eh?)
I worked at the on shore safety dept for VECO between May and September during the spill. I was there to earn tuition to go to medic school.
We pass out tons of meda for "the crud" or "valdisease" as it was affectionately known for the lingering and recurrent flu-like symptoms that were brought on by having hundreds of workers share communal housing, probably some exposure, probably sub-par sanitation, probably from exhaustion.
Exxon (veco/vrca/etc) was hiring anybody with a pulse to come down and participate in PR-meggedon so that american and the world it exports its message to might actually think: "wow; exxon gives a shit," with the intended goal of spending a billion dollars to cover it and Aleyeska's ass.
I personally met 2 workers who were exposed to Inipol without proper hazmat protection. We sat on them for a week taking blood every day as they were symptomatic for hemolysis (rupturing Red Blood Cells). Maybe those guys are dead.
Beyond that, i can't fathom any mass extinction of a workforce nor the sophisticated coverup to keep the public in the dark about.
The town was a boom town that summer with the commensurate blow-hards and geeks that show up for the circus (a number of whom i'm proud to have been friends with)>
But when camp broke, we all split to go about our lives.
To Alaskan's, it was a regrettable boon (lots of work at the cost of the environment). and a lot of people got fired because they thought they could keep smoking pot, even though they'd signed a form saying they wouldn't.
I tested their pee. I should say that i was the chain-custodian who made sure their pee went out to be tested, so i met damn near everyone there. I would get off work at dawn every day, seven days a week and drink my fill til noon at The Pipeline Club and then drive back to my camper.
That was not discouraged, nor even frowned at, nor sanctioned against.

I should qualify that i went up the next summer (i'm from california) and worked at a spill site in the middle of the tundra for The Alaska Railroad (Nenanah 1990 spill), and I met a lot of people who'd worked at Valdez the year before. Still healthy, very much alive, still chasing the paycheck (the fuggin' AMAZING paychecks, i should say).

Whitney Mulqueen said...

Ahh.....Ms. Savage...I worked at Alinchak Bay in Alaska aboard the F/V The Centaurus for Veco and I am 47 and healthy and very much alive......hmmmmmmm.......