The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) and Tulane University's Disaster Resiliency Leadership Academy have released the results of surveys measuring the initial health and economic impacts of the BP oil disaster. A total of 934 surveys were taken in Terrebonne, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in seven survey sites between July and October of last year. The surveys found three-quarters of respondents reported an increase in cough, eye irritation, headaches and sinus irritation — symptoms that can indicate chemical exposure.
Grand Isle resident Betty Dowd says residents of the island need blood work "to find out what exactly is causing these problems — whether it's BP or not, we just need to know where it's coming from."
LABB director Anne Rolfes says she hopes the report serves as a warning sign, pointing to the health and lack of longterm studies of Exxon Valdez victims, 9/11 cleanup workers and FEMA trailer residents. "We don't want to be in a situation 10 years from now ... where we wish we would've done something," Rolfes says. She adds that the data should "not just study people but treat their problems. ... We don't want to end up in 10 years with data on a bunch of dead bodies."
The report recommends parishes receive better access to health care (including mental health services) — 54 percent of respondents had health insurance, though only 31 percent sought treatment. The report also recommends job training (creating a "restoration economy") and improvements in the claims process.
The report is available online at www.labucketbrigade.org. — Alex Woodward