Dr. Riki Ott Says Health Officials Covering Up Thousands Of People Sick From BP Gulf Oil Spill


Local NBC news station WLBT channel 3 reports:

Health effects of oil spill discussed

Marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott worked extensively with people affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The scientist, who is also selling a book, says we don’t know nearly enough about the short term and long term health problems created by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She says hundreds of people along the gulf coast are sick with respiratory illnesses and skin rash.

“Unfortunately, what I’ve seen and heard are that people are being treated for staph, scabies, heat stroke, food poisoning. I am still talking to people who were sick in May, who are still sick in August. With heat stroke? No, I don’t think so,” she says. What I’m seeing here is chemical poisoning, a rash of illnesses stemming from this release of oil and dispersant in the gulf, unprecedented amount.” Dr. Ott did not claim to know anyone along the gulf who has been specifically diagnosed with an oil spill-related illness.

Speaking as part of a panel at Millsaps College Saturday, she tells us that if she had a family living down there, she would evacuate.

Dr. Ott says even vacationers have come away with peeling hands and skin issues.

Her arguments were countered by state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, who has been comparing the nature of the illnesses charted at coastal hospitals with hospitals further away. He says there’s been no major increase in respiratory or rash cases on the coast.

“What we found was a mixture of things, chicken pox or allergic dermatitis for things like poison ivy. We were unable to pull out anything that’s specifically oil related,” Dr. Byers says.

Dr. Ott is skeptical of those diagnoses. “I’m wondering if the doctors who pledge ‘do no more harm’, what they’re thinking when they prescribe antibiotics for something that’s clearly secondary infection from chemical illness,” she says.

Dr. Ott recommends the seafood not be eaten.

Dr. Byers, when asked if the shrimp is safe, says he’s been eating it himself.

The discussion was put on by the Mississippi Democratic Club.

Editors Note: So we have two different versions to go by here, Dr. Ott who claims of wide spread sickness and Dr. Byers who says move along folks nothing to see here.

Dr. Ott claims that people can not still be sick and suffering from their original diagnosis such as heat stroke, dehydration and food poisoning months later. Those types of illnesses simply don’t last that long.

On the other hand Dr. Byers says “We were unable to pull out anything that’s specifically oil related”.

However an independent survey conducted by Columbia University found that 40% of the Gulf residents exposed to the toxic chemicals from the oil spill suffer from skin lesions and respiratory problems which corroborates the claims made by Dr. Ott and pretty much tells you that the claims being made by Dr. Byers and other health officials that no one is sick is full it.

The survey, conducted by telephone in July after the Deepwater Horizon well was capped, found evidence of significant and potentially lasting impact of the disaster on the health, mental health, and economic fortunes of residents and their children and on the way they live their everyday lives. The findings have implications for health and economic policies going forward.

Survey Findings

Among the key survey findings:

  • Over 40% of adults living within ten miles of the coast said they have experienced direct exposure to the oil spill or clean-up effort. Within this group, nearly 40% reported physical symptoms of skin irritations and respiratory problems, which they attributed to the oil spill.
  • Over one-third of parents report that their children have experienced either physical symptoms or mental health distress as a consequence of the oil spill.
  • One in five households report a drop in income since the oil spill, and 8% report job loss. These losses were most likely to hit those who were already economically vulnerable: households with incomes under $25,000 a year.
  • More than one-quarter (26.6%) of coastal residents said they thought they might have to move away from the Gulf Coast. Among those earning less then $25,000, the figure was 36.3%. Children whose parents think they may move are almost three times more likely to have mental health distress than are children whose parents do not expect to move.
  • More than 70% of parents report children spending less time swimming, boating and playing in the sand; 21% say their kids are spending less overall time playing outdoors.
  • Coastal residents had more favorable assessments and trust in their local and state officials and in the U.S. Coast Guard than they did in BP or other federal agencies.
  • Slightly over half of all coastal residents felt that BP’s response was “poor,” and 41.3% said that the President’s response to the oil spill was poor.

“Over the last few days we are seeing an effort by officials who are suggesting that, as the oil is less visible on the surface, the ‘crisis is over.’ Clearly, this is far from the case,” says Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCPD) at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and president of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF). “As shown by our survey, done after the well was capped, there is a significant and persistent public health crisis underscored by the large number of children with medical and psychological problems related to the oil disaster. These concerns will need to be assessed and managed in these coastal communities where there are few or no pediatricians and vastly insufficient mental health professional capacity.”

The survey found a dramatic relationship between economic vulnerability and health effects. Adults with household incomes under $25,000 were by far the most likely to report physical and mental health effects for themselves and also among their children. “Much the way Hurricane Katrina had its greatest effect on those with the least, the oil spill is also having a greater impact on those coastal residents who are economically vulnerable, says David Abramson, PhD, MPH, director of Research at NCDP and assistant professor of clinical sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School. “In an area still recovering from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill represents a significant test of a population’s resiliency.”

Dr. Redlener, a pediatrician and professor at the Mailman School, outlined a number of implications for policymakers and others: “Guidelines need to be developed, with active participation of relevant federal agencies, with respect to the short- and long-term health risks of remaining in affected communities. This should include recommendations, based on known science, on when families would be advised to move out of the community entirely.” He also believes BP should provide funds to state and local agencies involved with providing assessment and care to affected families. “Children are particularly susceptible to the consequences of this disaster and need to have special resources focused on their needs.”


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