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Eyeless Shrimp and Fish With Tumors: The Horrific Consequences of BP's Spill

Despite mounting environmental and health consequences, not to mention the death of 11 workers, no executives have received jail time.

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Dr. Patricia Williams, PhD, Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, Associate Professor, Coordinator of Toxicology Research Laboratories, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, spoke at the summit about what she sees a failure to properly assess the impact of the spill on seafood and on human health. She said:

In 1996, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledged that direct measurement of tissue for PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) concentrations generally does not provide a useful indicator of exposure of fish to PAHs from petroleum spills. Regardless, an extremely expensive seafood testing program was launched using this method. Testing included only 13 PAH parent compounds out of 200 PAHs present in crude oil. PAHs act on each other resulting in greater toxicity than expected from a single PAH (synergism). The synergistic nature of the PAHs were ignored in interpretation of the results. Additionally, the Levels of Concern were calculated for a 176 pound individual. This does not address toddlers and children or the developing fetus and placental transfer. The public was not warned of these deficiencies in the seafood testing program.

Dr. Williams explained that "PAHs are endocrine disruptors that interfere with the normal blood-borne hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone) that are responsible for the regulation of reproductive and developmental processes. Only very low amounts of chemicals are needed to disrupt the normal endocrine balance of both humans and animals. Evidence of reproduction imbalance is seen in the second generation of white shrimp in the 2011 harvest. Shrimp were harvested with defective eye stalks, pleopods, and pereiopods. Such anatomical defects are occurring in the markedly reduced white shrimp population in the Gulf and warn of endocrine dysfunction that could result in the loss of the species." 

Furthermore, "The heavy metals known to be present in crude oil are being ignored in the testing of seafood. Metal toxicity can produce neurobehavioral abnormalities in sea life such as: alterations in avoidance or attraction responses; critical swimming speed; changes in social interactions (e.g. aggression), reproduction, feeding, and predator avoidance; food foraging with reduced feeding ability; loss or orientation in swimming and changes in schooling behavior. Heavy metal testing in BP Oil clean-up workers has documented increased arsenic levels in 24 hour urine specimens."

Finally, Dr. Williams warned that "The future chronic health effects from consumption of contaminated seafood and biomagnification along the food chain are yet to be realized in both sea life and humans. Chronic effects may take years to present and may elude an analysis of their causal origins. "

On the second day of the summit, a settlement between private plaintiffs and BP was announced in the press. This settlement does not resolve the government cases, either civil or criminal, against the responsible parties. But the settlement of the private case raises the question whether the government prosecutions will be resolved without a trial and without jail time for executives ultimately responsible for the deaths of 11 workers and severe and ongoing environmental and economic impacts on the region. The summit attendees were abuzz with speculation about what will happen in the federal and State of Louisiana cases.

In Louisiana, petroleum is king. This state is the 3rd largest producer of petroleum in America, Louisiana is responsible for more than 1/4 of nation's natural gas production, and Louisiana is the third leading refiner of petroleum in the country. In addition, the state makes over 600 petroleum products making it the second in the nation in primary production of petrochemicals. The 20-mile stretch on the Mississippi from New Orleans to Baton Rouge known as "The Cancer Corridor" pumps out 1/4 of the chemicals made in America. Louisiana leads the United States in release of toxic chemicals into the environment. The seven-parish industrial corridor has the highest density of petrochemical industries in the nation and possibly the world.

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