VIOLET, La. – A commercial fisherman by trade, Kim Alfonso says the BP oil spill didn’t just hurt his source of income. He believes it also impacted his health.
“I never had headaches before. Never did,” said Alfonso, an oil spill cleanup worker. “But I have them now.”
He hopes the hair sample he gave Wednesday night will reveal more about the possible toxins that may be in his body.
“If I’m sick and something’s in me, and it’s gonna get me sick, I want my family known to be taken care of,” Alfonso said.
Already around 40 people have given samples. It’s an effort spearheaded by activist Gary Burris of the Public Eyes Health Service. He believes the hair samples will prove fumes from the spill and the dispersants had an adverse effect on people’s health. They were taken mostly from those who live near affected areas or worked in cleanup efforts.
“More and more people are saying they started getting sick after the exposure, and it’s getting worse and worse. All these guys got headaches, their ears are ringing, and there’s a connection,” Burris said. “All these people aren’t crazy, and they’re not filing claims. They want to know something. They want to know what happened to them.”
Some saw their results Wednesday for the first time. Most of the hair samples showed high levels of chemicals like uranium, mercury or lead, but one doctor believes those toxic chemicals could have built up over time, and may be unrelated to the oil spill.
“This is important information to have so we can begin to look at some of the possible effects, but to attribute it to the oil spill is going to be very difficult,” said Dr. Ed Trapido, associate dean of the LSU School of Public Health.
There’s no way to compare the levels of toxins in people’s bodies before the spill, but Burris and many at the meeting believe the spill is the only explanation.
“All it is, is that big oil company, all they want to do is get this mess cleaned up, out of sight, out of mind, and they could care less what happens to the people,” said Warren Guiroz, a commercial fisherman who was hired by BP to help cleanup after the spill.
Burris is asking that BP set up a health fund for those feeling adverse effects. Meanwhile experts believe it could be decades before we see the full health effects of the BP oil spill.