Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gulf of the Living Dead

A Biochemical Time Bomb Ticks Away in the Gulf

Recently, frustrated scientists presented evidence that millions of Gulf area residents were poisoned by the BP Gulf disaster. Worse, they believe that millions more could be exposed to long term poisoning.

Yet other than those worried scientists few seemed to care.

Now more frightening evidence has emerged: areas of the Gulf Coast may have been saturated with high levels of benzene, hydrogen sulfide and radioactive hydrocarbon effluents--three deadly substances that can cause disease and death years after the initial exposures. . .

eyond the oil gushing into the Gulf at a rate never before seen, deadly methane gas flooded the region. The methane reached such high levels of density in the Gulf that brilliant scientists like Dr. John Kessler of Texas A&M recorded stunning readings of methane--amounts one million times higher than normal. His reports managed to reach the media.

Although access to the forbidden zone has been restored, a partial news blackout remains in place blocking public access to the data that measured toxicity in the Gulf waters and Gulf states from April into August. . .

Some environmental experts are calling what’s pouring into the land, sea and air from the seabed breach ‘a chemical cocktail of poisons.’

Areas of methane dead zones devoid of oxygen are continuing to drive species of fish into foreign waters, are killing plankton and other tiny sea life that are the foundation for the entire food chain, and are polluting the air with cancer-causing chemicals and poisonous rainfalls.

And before the news blackout fully descended, the EPA released data that benzene levels in New Orleans had rocketed to as high as 3,000 parts per billion (ppb).

Benzene is extremely toxic, even short term exposure at low levels can cause agonizing illness and slow death from cancerous lesions and leukemia years later. But 3,000ppb is far from a low reading.

Hydrogen sulfide was also detected by the EPA monitoring stations around the New Orleans area. The EPA reported hydrogen sulfide levels as high as 1200ppb. A normal, safe level falls between 5 to 10ppb.

It sounds like the latest bad sequel to George Romero's classic horror flick, but some scientists are beginning to sound the alarm that people in the Gulf states have been and still are being poisoned, they just don't know it yet. The chemicals released naturally from BP's petroleum deposit and unnaturally from their Corexit and its interaction with the oil can kill a human being straight up if inhaled in sufficient concentration. But the more insidious side of the benzene, methane, hydrogen sulfide and all the rest is that in lower concentrations, it could take years for the damage now being done to be seen in the population.

I've written about the laundry list of symptoms that can develop with low-level but long-term exposure to these poisons, and do not need to go over that list again. But in their desperate attempt to hide the true scope of the Gulf oil disaster from the public, BP has dumped over 40 million gallons of Corexit 9500 into the Gulf of Mexico, and estimates range from a low of 140 million gallons of oil released to as many as 190 million. Even more methane was released, as experts estimated that 60%+ of the material spewing from BP's well was methane, and oil was in a slight minority by volume.

And the hiding of the oil by means of dispersant means that it will take much, much longer for all the oil to finally make its way out of the water and onto land. That indeed was BP's entire point in using so much deadly Corexit. Think about this -- Corexit was used in the cleanup efforts following the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. Nearly all of the cleanup workers from that disaster are dead -- they died at an average age of 51, directly caused by their exposure to Corexit. Now obviously the residents of the Gulf Coast will not be exposed to the high levels of dispersant that the Valdez cleanup crews were, so we won't see whole town of people dropping dead instantly, as we have seen entire schools of fish do.

Instead, it will be a creeping death. A delayed one. Instead of dying quickly, people in the areas where the most oil and gases and Corexit happens to land will simply die at much higher rates from cancer, organ failure and blood and neurological disorders than the rest of the country. And that will be years down the road, so BP hopes it can put enough time between now and then that it will be impossible to prove cases of manslaughter in criminal court, or be found liable for damages to families of lost loved ones in civil court. I'm never going to the beaches of the Gulf Coast or East Coast again, and neither should anyone else who values their health.