Local doctor links spill to symptoms


Rodney D. Soto, medical doctor for the Younger You Institute in Santa Rosa Beach, recently started testing and treating patients in relation to high levels of volatile solvents in the blood stream that he says may be linked to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf.

“What I am concerned most about is a long-term effect, that won’t even show up for years, but are going to have tremendous implications in human immune system and hormonal function and brain function,” Soto said.

These compounds (petroleum and dispersants) are liposoluble; meaning they have a “high affinity for fat,” Soto said.

While the clinic specializes in “anti-aging and aesthetic medicine,” Soto points out that he is a medical doctor licensed in two states. He said the medical community has been monitoring the spill’s impact but has failed to develop adequate treatment methods.

“It is not the fat that you would think of, it is the fat tissue in your body; the brain is 70 percent fat and the glands, immune cells, the intestinal tract, thyroid, breast, prostate, the organs and systems. That is why it causes all of these disorders,” Soto said. “That is why it is so significant for children.”

Children’s brains and reproductive organs and processes are still forming, which could potentially make their exposure to the petro chemicals even more significant.

Okaloosa Island resident Joseph Yerkes says he recently tested positive for high levels of volatile solvents in his blood and is being treated for toxic exposure.

His longtime attending physician at the Immediate Care Center in Fort Walton Beach performed the test at Yerkes’ request, after he experienced multiple symptoms related to exposure of this type, such as tiredness, lethargy, headaches, blisters, non-healing sores on his elbows and head, as well as an aggravating cough and chronic body aches.

Yerkes was referred to a toxicologist following testing. The doctor gave him the sobering news.

“He was very clear about his diagnosis, explaining how dangerous and damaging these chemicals can be to our bodies, and concluded all of my symptoms are due to the elevated, abnormal levels of chemicals present in my system from the Gulf oil spill,” the former Vessels of Opportunity operator, who was employed by BP, told The Sun in a recent e-mail.

Yerkes is among a growing number of people testing for high levels of volatile solvents in his blood, one watchdog group claims.

According to Mississippi Riverkeeper of the Waterkeeper Alliance, blood samples from eight individuals from Florida (Pensacola) and Alabama, male and female, residents and BP cleanup workers “were analyzed for volatile solvents and all came back with Ethylbenzene and m,p-Xylene in excess of 95th percentile values of 0.11 ppb for ethylbenzene and 0.34 ppb for m,p-Xylene.” The highest concentration value was four times the 95the percentile.

The report went on to say, “The blood of all three females and five males had chemicals that are found in the BP crude oil.”

Local emergency operation officials and health department personnel say they are unfamiliar with this testing.

Capt. Joe Preston, chief for Walton County Emergency Management and Public Safety Division, said, “It falls under more of a public health purview but it is something that needs to be tracked closely.”

Gail Allen, administrator for the Walton County Health Department, said “I have not heard of this (volatile solvents blood) testing.”

“As far as air and water quality, testing, it hasn’t given any indication that it is necessary,” Allen said. “There are things in place to do long-term tracking (of BP workers), but it has not started” yet.

A total of 119 water samples were taken in Walton County, which resulted in one “hit” on July 22 at Grayton Beach State Park. A hit refers to a positive indicator for oil product or dispersants.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection website, 23 samples were taken and tested for dispersants between June 22 and Aug. 16, resulting with two “hits.” Both “hits” were on Aug.16, one in Escambia/Santa Rosa counties and the other in Bay County, no samplings have been listed since.

The dispersant “hits” are followed by an asterisk which denotes, “trace amounts of DOSS, which is an ingredient of the Corexit dispersant and other common consumer products, such as paints, coatings and pharmaceutical products, were observed.” It went on; “dispersants were never used in state of Florida waters.”

Health officials such as Dr. Soto said the Exxon oil spill tragedy in Alaska showed it is important to “provide healthcare” for people exposed to the hazardous materials.

Part of the treatment, for patients that test positive, will consist of an oral and an intravenous detoxification, said Soto.

“The liver has the ability to detox these compounds efficiently until it gets overloaded or overwhelmed, then it is deposited into the fat cells,” Soto said. “The all natural intravenous agent will help detox through the stool and urine.”

Yerkes’ physician’s suggested treatment includes diet and his temporary relocation.

“It’s very hard to accept the fact that I have to leave the Gulf of Mexico,” Yerkes said. “It deeply saddens me after living on or around it, making a living from it, and experiencing the serenity and contentedness it has always brought to me.”

“I don’t know if they can ‘make this right’ anymore,” he added.

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

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