Lethal and toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and methalene chloride are floating in the air over the oil spill. There’s a very high probability that residents exposed to the air surrounding the spill will suffer a direct hit to their health status such as debilitating diseases or various birth deformities and cancer as a long-term result. But first what these people will see is flu-like symptoms, which, like in the flu, are symptoms of intolerable amounts of foreign toxins, chemicals and heavy metals in the tissues dumping into the bloodstream.
Even a small amount of benzene exposure can cause temporary nervous system disorders, immune system depression and anemia. Short-term affects include skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, headache, stomach irritation, drowsiness and dizziness. High levels of exposure can result in a rapid heart rate, excessive bleeding, tremors, vomiting, unconsciousness and death. Benzene can cause harmful effects on bone marrow and a decrease in red blood cells leading to myelofibrosis and myelodysplastic syndrome.
That’s how it starts. Chemical exposure symptoms feel like a flu. Professor I.M. Trakhtenberg of Russia gives us a big hint when he says, “Chronic mercury exposure is also a threat to our health and makes us especially vulnerable to flu infections. It has been shown that “prolongedexposure of mammals (white mice) to low mercury concentrations (0.008 – 0.02mg/m3) leads to a significant increase in the susceptibility of mice topathological influenza virus strains.” For contemporary medicine to respond in an appropriate and humane way to the oil disaster it will have to leap out of the quagmire of its present paradigm an into one that understands the ‘terrain’ of human physiology and how that terrain is being overrun by chemical toxicity and heavy metals. WE DO NOT NEED TO BE ATTACKED BY AN INFLUENZA VIRUS STRAIN TO GET THE FLU. When we are attacked with nasty chemicals we are as likely to get the flu as when we are run over by viruses, which are more potent at driving health officials mad as at causing pandemics.
“Blood elements such as WBCs, RBCs, hemoglobin, and bone marrow are adversely affected. With tissue proteins there is alteration of biological properties and protein synthesis. Enzyme; hormone; and endocrine functions of pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, ovaries, and testes are altered. There are pathological effects on the heart, liver, immune system, central nervous system, lungs, kidneys, and spleen.” continues Dr. Trakhtenberg.
Thiol poisons react with SH groups of proteins, which leads to lowering the activity of various enzymescontaining these proteins. This produces a series of disruptionsin the functional activity of many organs and tissues and this is the mechanism and pathological pathway of poisons that run us right into the ground. A toxic storm is gathering in the Gulf of Mexico and it contains devastating chemicals that can and will poison and destroy proteins with sulfur bonds.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 175,000 and 210,000 – or about 25 percent – of the living veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are currently afflicted by a debilitating, chronic, multi-symptom, multi-system disease commonly known as Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome. The Environmental Illness Resource tells us that more than 110,000 cases had been reported by 1999, according to official government sources. There is even a report relating to military personnel in Kansas developing flu-like symptoms and chemical sensitivities after handling archived documents returned from the Gulf. In the UK, veterans of the 2003 conflict began reporting symptoms identical to those reported by the first war shortly after they returned from duty.
The symptoms reported by veterans include:
- Persistent Headaches
- Muscle Aches/Pains
- Neurological Symptoms, e.g. tingling and numbness in limbs
- Cognitive Dysfunction – short-term memory loss, poor concentration, inability to take in information
- Mood and Sleep Disturbances – Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia
- Dermatological Symptoms – Skin Rashes, Unusual Hair Loss
- Respiratory Symptoms – Persistent Coughing, Bronchitis, Asthma
- Chemical Sensitivities
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Diarrhea, Constipation, Nausea, Bloating
- Cardiovascular Symptoms
- Menstrual Symptoms
These symptoms are similar to those attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities and other environmental illnesses. This similarity hasn’t gone unnoticed, which is why many people, including healthcare professionals and researchers, are coming to the conclusion that all these illnesses share common causes and etiologies. Gulf War vets have developed ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at twice the rate of vets who did not serve in the Gulf War. Some veterans returned seemingly well, yet developed severe illnesses months or years later. The lag time between cause and effect makes understanding these illnesses more difficult.
Coalition troops were constantly exposed to chemicals (and vaccines) whose use is considered safe by people and organizations that do not know a safe substance from a dangerous one. The retreating Iraqi army ignited approximately 600 oil wells in February 1991, which burned for about nine months. These fires produced massive amounts of thick smoke that sometimes drifted to ground level causing increased exposure to ground troops. When this occurred the air pollution was far greater than would be experienced in the average traffic congested western city.
Questionnaires filled in by US troops indicated higher rates of eye and upper respiratory tract irritation, shortness of breath, cough, rashes, and fatigue than unexposed troops. The smoke from oil well fires contained a cocktail of chemicals, notably benzene, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide as well as quantities of particulate matter.
Lessons from the Valdez
Clean-up workers in the Gulf are getting sick, as did their Valdez counterparts decades ago. Numbers are sketchy, but a U.S. News & World Report piece published in June noted that reports of illness are on the rise. Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said in the beginning of the month that it has had 71 reported cases of oil-spill-related illness, 50 of which were workers either on oilrigs or involved in clean-up efforts. Eight of them have been hospitalized. “We are increasingly concerned about the provisions being made to protect the health and safety of those who are exposed to the oil and other elements associated with the spill,” said Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana DHH, and Peggy Hatch, secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, in an open letter to federal officials.
Benzene is a human carcinogen, and can cause various forms of cancer from prolonged exposure. Exposure to high levels of benzene shows association with leukemia cancer. Benzene-related leukemia has been reported to develop in as short as nine months.
The 21 cases reported by the general public in Louisiana were mostly due to odors from the oil, and many were people with existing respiratory disorders. Dr. Edward Trapido at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health said that, “No one has ever done a longitudinal study of health impacts on workers or residents after previous oil spills.” More than 6,700 workers involved in the Exxon Valdez cleanup in 1989 suffered respiratory problems. Merle Savage was one of them. Some put the number of clean-up workers who sought medical attention as a result of the exposure higher – at over 11,000.
At the time, the Valdez disaster was the worst oil spill the United States had ever seen. It was 1989 and Merle Savage, then a healthy 50-year-old, had heard the news about Exxon Valdez. Compelled to help, she spent four months cleaning up Alaska’s oil-contaminated waters and shores. She has never been the same since. Now 71, Savage still feels the toll that her work that summer took on her health, but as she watches the reports coming out of the Gulf today, she’s feeling something else: déjà vu.
After all, the symptoms seem to line up. A flu-like illness. Dizziness. Nausea. Nosebleeds. Vomiting. Headaches. Coughing. Difficulty breathing. Many of the same things she experienced two decades ago. Some of the same things she still experiences today. “I had an upset stomach all the time. I was throwing up, fainting, I was having trouble with my lungs,” Savage said.
It’s been 21 years since the Valdez. She said her health has improved over the past two decades, but still, “everything is not back to normal. It’s still difficult to breathe.” Asked if there’s any doubt in her mind that the workers’ health problems in the Gulf are due to chemical exposure, she was certain. “No. There’s none,” Savage said. “Let’s face it, crude oil is toxic. There’s no question about it. Anybody who says it isn’t has to have some type of interest otherwise. The fact that you’re out there in it, and the heat and humidity and the fumes, you breathe it and it’s going into your lungs. I can’t imagine anybody thinking different.”
Benzene is a clear, colorless and highly flammable aromatic liquid that evaporates quickly into the air, and can dissolve in water.
More than a decade after the Valdez, Scientific American reported that a significant amount of oil still persists and the long-term impacts of oil spills may be more devastating than previously thought. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported an increase in respiratory symptoms, headaches, throat and eye irritation, (all flu-like symptoms) rashes and other skin problems among the clean-up workers. More recently, a study of beach clean-up workers and volunteers in Spain after a 2002 oil spill found an increase in DNA damage.
In 1999 the EPA listed 22 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the most deadly fraction of crude oil, as persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic pollutants. Hundreds and potentially thousands of workers from the 1989 cleanup are suffering from debilitating respiratory difficulties, central nervous system problems (e.g., memory loss, brain fog, headaches), and heightened sensitivity to chemicals. Medical researchers have linked exposure to systemic health problems including endocrine (hormone) disruption, suppression of immune system function, reproductive problems, and central nervous system effects in individuals.
Dr. Jeffery Bland reports that the first signs of chronic toxicity may appear as neuro and immunotoxicity. Dr. Michael R. Lyon reminds us that the nervous and immune systems are highly sensitive to oxidative stress and xenobiotics, that is, drugs and organic poisons.
Dr. Damon Dietrich has seen patients with “a pattern of symptoms” that could have been caused by burning crude oil, noxious fumes from the oil or dispersants dumped in the Gulf to break it up. “One person comes in, it could be multiple things,” he said. “Eleven people come in with these symptoms, it makes it incredibly suspicious.” Commercial fisherman John Wunstell Jr. spent a night on a vessel near the source of the spill and left complaining of a severe headache, upset stomach and nose bleed. He was treated at the hospital, and sued — becoming part of a class-action lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in New Orleans against BP, Transocean and their insurers. “I began to ache all over …” he said in the affidavit. “I was completely unable to function at this point and feared that I was seriously ill.” “If they’re out there getting lightheaded and dizzy every day then obviously they ought to come in, and there should be respirators and other equipment provided,” said LuAnn White, director of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health.
Volatile Organic Compounds Are Main Threat
Doctors and everyone need to know that the chemicals released into the air by evaporating oil and/or dispersants include hydrogen sulfide, benzene, methylene chloride, 2-butoxyethanol and other toxic gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). All are highly toxic to humans and physical reactions from exposure to these gases may include:
• Irritation of eyes, nose or throat
• Coughing or difficulty breathing
• Nausea or vomiting
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat
• Death (at very high levels)
Clean-up workers offshore and residents on the Gulf coast have already reported many of these symptoms. Alan Levine, Louisiana’s Health Secretary, told CBS News there have been 75 people so far reporting spill-related symptoms, mostly flu-like respiratory woes. Levine believes it will continue to get worse. According to CNN, cases have been reported in Alabama. This may have been what prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to announce that it is stepping up air quality monitoring on the Gulf coast early on.
After the oil spill in the Gulf, you may want to pass on the sushi, shrimp and other seafood for longer than you think, if you don’t want to get cancer. – Nutritionist Milton Carl
The residents and workers in the path of any fumes resulting from the oil spill need access to the finest form of medicine that exists for toxic poisoning.
The American government needs to wake up (something it is loath to do) and start massive distribution of sodium bicarbonate to millions of its citizens. Add to that magnesium chloride and clay as well as certain high-profile superfoods like spirulina, chlorella, which were used by the Russians at Chernobyl to reduce toxic loads. All vaccinations, especially those containing mercury, should be immediately discontinued in the area for they can easily tip a person whose system is already reaching toxic overload into a meltdown that emergency room personal will be impotent to deal with.
If you can smell raw crude, and if the rain and ocean mists are oily, rest assured you are being exposed to dangerous cancer-causing levels of benzene molecules. Studies have linked benzene exposure in the mere parts per billion (ppb) ranges to terminal leukemia, Hodgkins lymphoma, and other blood and immune system diseases within 5-15 years of exposure. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set a permissible exposure limit of 1 part benzene per million parts air (1 ppm) in the workplace during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. The short-term exposure limit for airborne benzene is a mere 5 ppm for 15 minutes. Typically, if one can smell raw crude oil that has evaporated into the air from a massive oil spill, the OSHA safe limits for “short term exposure” has been exceeded.