Air quality testing in Venice, Louisiana near the DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill shows level of toxins greater than 100x the amount safe to humans


Continued degradation of air quality in coastal communities very likely

Stuart Smith, of Smith Stag, LLC, representing the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and United Commercial Fisherman’s Association today issued this statement:

“On April 30, on behalf of citizens living and working in Louisiana near the British Petroleum catastrophe, I urged all officials working to resolve this man-made problem to deal in facts and with transparency. At the time, we warned we were on the edge of the worst-case scenario.”

“To the extent BP and its partners have heeded our warnings it has been only after entering the U.S. District Court and gaining binding agreements whereby BP is forced to respect the rights and health of Louisiana’s citizens. These actions have been extended to cover all Americans.”

“Over the weekend, our team of independent law firms was the first to announce that the BP cofferdam experiment had failed and to ask why it took the corporation so long to admit failure to government officials so appropriate actions could be taken.”

“Now, a recent evaluation done by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) of the Environmental Protection Agency’s results of air content and quality testing show that the level of some airborne toxins is greater than 100 times the quantity considered safe to humans and could cause physical reactions.

There is an obvious significant threat not only to the environment and economy, but also to public health for those downwind of the oil slick. It is imperative that BP and the federal government immediately release to the public all information that they have as a result of modeling a worst-case scenario. Congressional hearings have started. The concern cannot stop but the impact of a catastrophic failure and the effect on human health is not being debated enough.”

“The LEAN report said that results of the testing show that the hydrogen sulfide content at Venice Beach, Louisiana has reached up to 1,192 parts per billion. The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion.”

“Noted Toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer stated that hydrogen sulfide gas presents a very narrow window of safety following its olfactory detection and if sustained exposures to residents occur at this level, severe and permanent toxicological effects are imminent.   Sustained exposures at levels as low as 500 PPB are distinctly detectable by the nose; however, slightly higher levels are associated with sore eyes, mucous membrane irritation, neurological damage, adverse respiratory effects, headache, dizziness and ocular damage. Complaints of irritation, rhinitis, bronchitis, pulmonary edema, headaches, dizziness and respiratory difficulties are characteristic of H2S exposure.”

“Low-level chronic or sustained exposure may include ocular damage (H2S “gas eye”), damage to the cornea, corneal scarring, corneal ulceration or chronic conjunctivitis, respiratory disease, neurological damage and neuropsychological damage. The neuropsychological effects may include memory failure, lack of insight, disorientation, confusion states and dementia. Neuro-sensory abnormalities include hearing impairment, vision loss and lack of smell. Most severe injuries may include loss of motor function including ataxia, tremor and muscle rigidity.”

“Immediate precautions and continuous monitoring is essential with a relocation plan for exposed residents made available. “

“Testing data also showed levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana’s own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.”

“Louisiana’s ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb, while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer. Air testing results show VOC concentrations far above these state standards. On May 6, for example, the EPA measured VOCs at levels of 483 ppb. The highest levels detected to date were on April 30, at 3,084 ppb, following by May 2, at 3,416 ppb.”

“Toxicity from this tragic event is increasing, not abating. We must know the facts and BP must share them and has a responsibility to present these facts. Once again, without knowing the toxicity which has been caused from this tragic event, it is imperative that those who may be forced to prove their losses in a court of law obtain competent and environmentally knowledgeable legal representatives who can establish the pre-damage baseline ecology now, in order to compare to post-oil spill contamination effects seen later. Without that immediate effort, victims who did not seek that type of early assistance may lose their ability to prove a full accounting of their rightful compensation for losses they actually sustain.”

“Since weather patterns indicate that sustained winds will blow from the Gulf into southeast Louisiana over the next few days, action must happen quickly. State and federal health officials need the ability to act quickly and with accuracy.”

“We believe this event has the potential to be the largest environmental disaster in the history of America, and it has reached the worst case scenario. Without any hesitation I can report that our team of independent lawers is ready to protect the interests of all those who have suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of this catastrophic event.”

To download the April 30, 2010 press release cited above or for more information go to: For more information, also consult

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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