Fishermen Report Illness From BP Chemicals

Friday, May 21, 2010
By Paul Martin

Toxicologist Says Chemicals Harmful, Can Lead To Death

WDSU.com

LAFITTE, La. —
More and more stories about sick fishermen are beginning to surface after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The fishermen are working out in the Gulf — many of them all day, every day — to clean up the spill. They said they blame their ailments on the chemicals that BP is using.

One fisherman said he felt like he was going to die over the weekend.

“I’ve been coughing up stuff,” Gary Burris said. “Your lungs fill up.”

Burris, a longtime fisherman who has worked across the Gulf Coast, said he woke up Sunday night feeling drugged and disoriented.

“It was like sniffing gasoline or something, and my ears are still popping,” Burris said. “I’m coughing up stuff. I feel real weak, tingling feelings.”

Marine toxicologist Riki Ott said the chemicals used by BP can wreak havoc on a person’s body and even lead to death.

“The volatile, organic carbons, they act like a narcotic on the brain,” Ott said. “At high concentrations, what we learned in Exxon Valdez from carcasses of harbor seals and sea otters, it actually fried the brain, (and there were) brain lesions.”

Rep. Charlie Melancon said he wants something done. He sent a letter to President Barack Obama’s administration calling for temporary health care clinics to be set up in the area.

“There can be immediate attention to any people who feel they have adverse problems caused by the inhalation or exposure to the oil,” Melancon said.

According to Burris, some equipment was donated to workers in Lafitte, but as far as he can tell BP hasn’t added anything to the mix. He said a lot of fishermen are working sick, and they’re afraid to speak out because it could cost them.

“You’ve got a woman with a baby in the oven, bills due and fishing’s closed down,” he said. “You’re going to do whatever you have to do to look after your family.”

Burris said that when he went to a doctor after feeling ill on Sunday, the doctor told him his lungs looked like those of a three-pack-a-day smoker, and Burris said he has never smoked.

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