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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Study: Oil spill cleanup caused illness

Study: Oil spill cleanup caused illness


Seven years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a federal study confirmed what one local doctor had suspected for years.

Chemicals used in the cleanup made thousands of people sick.

Dr. Michael Robichaux, a ear, nose and throat doctor in Raceland, said he saw many patients experiencing the same symptoms after being exposed to the oil dispersants.

The most common symptoms were abdominal pain, skin rashes, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, as well as endocrine disturbances where his patients bodies were not producing enough stress-relieving hormones.

“I saw it over and over again, and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that this type of process exists. I lived through it, I saw it and I’m still seeing it,” Robichaux said.

The federal study, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, specifically examined associations between the two oil dispersants used during the cleanup and human health. The study interviewed more than 27,000 people and concluded potential exposure to the chemicals was significantly associated with respiratory, skin and eye irritation.

Robichaux, a former state senator, said he wrote to local politicians several times trying to raise awareness on the issue but never received a response. So against the advice of his attorney, he opened a detox program for his patients.

“I did it anyhow because I had so many friends who were ill with this and there was nowhere else for them to turn, nothing else they could do. Out of desperation we decided to go along with this, although I was apprehensive on whether or not it would be effective,” Robichaux said.

Out of the 112 sick people who participated in the detox program, which included sitting in a 188-degree sauna for alternating periods of time, everyone showed improvements, Robichaux said.

“It was phenomenal. It was beyond belief the results we got,” Robichaux said.

Although the detox program helped alleviate the symptoms, some patients suffered from long-term effects, such as memory loss and other mental issues, Robichaux said.

Jorey Danos, of Chackbay, was one of the local men who experienced significant lasting health issues, which he credits to his time working with the oil spill clean-up effort.

Danos worked the cleanup from May to August in 2010 in Venice and Grand Isle where workers were not given safety instructions or proper safety gear, he said.

Ultimately, the Galliano native decided to quit when he was denied a respirator and was told by a BP representative if he asked for a one again he would be fired, he said.