Gulf Coast Lacks Physicians to Avert Looming Health Crisis


There are two distinct parts of the Gulf Coast health crisis, one compounding the other. The first part is obvious: People are getting sick – and their ranks are swelling into the tens of thousands. The second part is less obvious but perhaps more disturbing: Many of the sick cannot find local physicians who are both able and willing to treat them.

Practicing ear, nose and throat doctor Mike Robichaux is on the front lines of this crisis, treating scores of Gulf Coast residents with spill-related illnesses. Dr. Robichaux describes the situation unfolding in coastal communities across Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida as “the biggest public health crisis from a chemical poisoning in the history of this country. We are going to have thousands of people who are extremely sick…” That’s part one of our two-part crisis.

Here’s the other, according to Dr. Robichaux: “The medical community has shut this down. …They either don’t understand or are afraid to deal with it properly because they are afraid of the oil and gas industry.”

So we have people getting sick from the oil and dispersant, and they’re not being treated. That brings us to the tragic but latent third part of the crisis – that only occurs if we let it. According to Dr. Robichaux, “if the sick aren’t treated, a large number of them are going to die.”

He’s right, and it’s not an overstatement to say the situation becomes more desperate by the day. During the height of the spill last summer, Matt Simmons, petroleum expert and founder of the Ocean Energy Institute, warned that tens of millions of Gulf residents should be evacuated to avoid widespread death and illness. We are now feeling the fallout from his unheeded advice.

We urgently need physicians who are able to diagnose and treat these illnesses that are affecting so many up and down the Gulf Coast.

In an effort to help treating physicians and Gulf residents identify spill-related symptoms and illnesses, we are posting two important documents summarizing both “acute” and “long-term” adverse health effects associated with exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons. The documents contain links to peer-reviewed studies so be sure to click on those. Please share the material with your friends and family. It could save a life.

The first document covers acute adverse health effects, including:


Dermal (skin)
General (e.g., fever, diarrhea)

The second document covers long-term adverse health effects, including:

Lower Respiratory (e.g., wheezing and breathlessness)
Mental Health
Latent Conditions (e.g., skin and lung cancer)

Big thanks to veteran toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer for putting this important material together.

See acute health effects document here: BP – Acute Health effects-crude petroleum hydrocarbons

See long-term health effects document here: BP – Longterm effects-crude petroleum hydrocarbons

Visit Dr. Sawyer’s website here:

Read my previous post on health impacts and other urgent issues facing the Gulf Coast:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • I spent 3 weeks out on Mexico the month of July. I babysitted my grandchildred while my Son work there at the St. Joe bridge. The water didnt look bad but after being there for awile I became very sick. Dr at the ER said I had enough CO2 in my blood to kill me. I never really got a diagonoses from any Dr.

    I have rashes, seizers, ashma, mental problems…. I need help from one doctor that knows how to treat this as total dease not separate things for many specialist.

    Thank You for a place to share.

    Grandma of 4

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

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