For two years we’ve been suggesting that Gulf Coast communities organize themselves to the extent they can implement innovative programs to test, track and treat Gulf Coast residents who have been exposed to toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster.
The negative health impacts from these natural and human-made disasters are becoming well-known as scientists throughout the region are finding exceptionally high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the bloodstreams of Gulf residents; many of which are known to cause cancer, birth defects and genetic disorders over time.
Though not a a complete solution to the problem, residents in Alabama are being asked to participate in a survey designed to to assess the long-term effects of the BP oil spill.
Additionally, we suggest that a partnership between world-renown toxicologists, medical professionals, and Gulf-based grassroots organizations lead an effort to produce a low-cost, easy to administer, rapid-assessment blood analysis tool, as well as create an exposure-tracking database to provide a visual and spatial map of locations reporting the highest levels of contamination.
A project of this scope ought to address the urgent need for a holistic approach to public health that is localized and site-specific to the Gulf Coast. Strengthening local public healthcare systems must become a priority that involves improving the development and distribution of reliable information on the adverse health effects to environmental toxics, to include working with healthcare professional to develop treatment solutions that may defeat, delay or diminish the long-term effects from exposure.
This sounds like the perfect project for an organization like the Gates Foundation.