Many people living near the site of the BP oil spill have reported a long list of similar health problems.
Just weeks after BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, 2010, Fritzi Presley knew something was very wrong with her health.
The 57-year-old singer/songwriter from Long Beach, Mississippi began to feel sick, and went to her doctor.
“I began getting treatments for bronchitis, was put on several antibiotics and rescue inhalers, and even a breathing machine,” she told Al Jazeera. The smell of chemicals on the Mississippi coastline is present on many days when wind blows in from the Gulf.
Presley’s list of symptoms mirrors what many people living in the areas affected by BP’s oil spill have told Al Jazeera.
“I was having them then, and still have killer headaches. I’m experiencing memory loss, and when I had my blood tested for chemicals, they found m,p-Xylene, hexane, and ethylbenzene in my body.”
The 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf last year was the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, affecting people living near the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants, which are banned by many countries, including the UK. According to many scientists, these dispersants create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil.
Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist in New Iberia, Louisiana, has tested the blood of BP cleanup workers and residents.
“Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP crude oil,” Subra explained to Al Jazeera. “The acute impacts of these chemicals include nose and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, lung irritation, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting.”
Subra explained that exposure has been long enough to create long-term effects, such as “liver damage, kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system. So the presence of these chemicals in the blood indicates exposure”.