Report shows people claiming oil-related sickness

By Keitha Nelson - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - New information released by the Louisiana health officials Monday showed more people are coming forward claiming oil-related illnesses. Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said some people were even hospitalized.

Officials are not just talking about Gulf cleanup workers. Everyday folks who live and work in coastal areas claim to have similar symptoms. Levine said the state has received complaints from more than 70 people expressing the same types of symptoms. Eight of them, he said, have been hospitalized.

"The symptoms seem to be consistent, nausea, vomiting, headaches, flu like symptoms, respiratory symptoms," said Levine.

DHH sent a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration urging them to take a closer look at the safety standards that are in place by BP. They requested a full investigation of worker conditions for those involved in the oil spill response effort.

Workers are required to wear gloves, masks and other protective gear but Levine argues that might not be enough. As for others who are exposed in the coastal area, Levine says they too are claiming to be sick.

"We have had about 21 people express symptoms that were not involved in the cleanup. When oil rises to the surface, the toxins evaporate. What you're left with is a bad smell and some people are affected by that," Levine explained.

Levine said it is not yet known if people are getting sick from the oil, the chemical dispersants or both.

"We don't know. That's why we're doing the surveillance reports to better understand it," he added.

Levine said health officials are telling people to go where there is air conditioning, close their windows and get away from the smell. There are medical clinics set up on the coast to help those in need.

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