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Gulf Residents Deserve The Full Truth About Oil Cleanup Chemicals (Opinion)

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  • Gulf Residents Deserve The Full Truth About Oil Cleanup Chemicals (Opinion)


    04/20/2018 10:27 am ET Updated 1 day ago

    Gulf Residents Deserve The Full Truth About Oil Cleanup Chemicals

    Rocky Kistner
    Guest Writer

    TJ Johnson remembers the day he and his cousins were sprayed. Bobbing in two small boats four miles off the Alabama coast, they were using plastic nets to scoop out thick, noxious crude that had gushed to the surface after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded 40 miles off the Louisiana shore. Nobody had protective gear on, and no one worried much about the slimy, foul-smelling oil that stuck to their boats and piled up in the garbage bags they used to collect it.

    Suddenly out of the darkening sky a prop transport plane appeared, trailing a silky mist. As the plane flew over, TJ says, the mist floated down, burning their eyes and skin and causing several men to choke and gag. They poured water on themselves to clean the toxic liquid off their skin and headed back to their port in Bayou La Batre as fast as possible. TJ says they were all coughing, and soon developed headaches and rashes.

    ?The plane probably didn?t see us because it was getting dark,? TJ says. ?But that?s just the way it was out there. We were getting sprayed all the time.?

    That spray was part of nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant chemicals, called Corexit, that BP used to break up the oil before it reached the shore...

    Today, two of TJ?s cousins who worked on those boats are dead from throat and stomach cancer. TJ?s wife, Etta Venice, died of cancer in 2015. He blames the oil and chemical dispersants for contributing to their deaths, and says he still has rashes, headaches and severe breathing problems that make it hard to walk and hunt. ?The cleanup workers used to pile up oiled boom right by our front yard,? he says. ?They would come in and use the bathroom. My wife was exposed too.?

    TJ says when he asks doctors if the oily mix could have caused their illnesses, he just gets blank stares. ?The doctors are scared to get involved,? he says. ?You can tell that when you talk to them.?

    TJ?s story, unfortunately, is not news in the Gulf.
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela