Gulf War Syndrome Comes to the Gulf of Mexico

Millions of dollars from the BP Claims Fund are being poured into healthcare efforts in the wake of the  Deepwater Horizon disaster “to expand access to healthcare in underserved communities,” for “behavioral and mental health needs,” to “train community health care workers on peer listening, community resiliency and other related issues,” and to “expand and improve environmental health expertise, capacity and literacy.”

And yet, not one dime has been allocated to study how the toxic exposures  resulting from this disaster have rendered thousands of workers and residents chemically sensitive and suffering from the same disabling multi-system symptoms that afflict the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who suffer from what has become known as Gulf War Syndrome.

What we are witnessing, in fact, is the emergence of an entirely new disease mechanism that has grown out of the post-World War II petrochemical age and rendered millions of Americans who have suffered toxic exposures chronically ill. And the only way to help victims of toxic exposures and those in the future is to go after this mechanism.

How the settlement landed so far off the mark is anyone’s guess. One $14.4 million grant will send mental health counselors to the Gulf Coast.

People along the Gulf Coast are reacting to this news of misdirected largesse. As a reader of the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register posted on the newspaper’s website, “Who will contain the money spill?”

Related link: My earlier message “To Gulf Oil Spill Responders: What You and Your Doctors Need to Know About TILT.”

Responders to the Deepwater Horizon spill, like the clean-up workers in the Exxon Valdez accident 20 years ago, have long been reporting chronic health problems associated with TILT, including multi-system symptoms (fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, digestive difficulties, and problems with memory and concentration) as well as new intolerances for everyday exposures that never bothered them before.

An article from the Huffington Post in March 2012 describes how doctors along the Gulf Coast are routinely treating clean-up workers and residents for chemical exposure and other problems that they blame on the spill. The article includes statements from a physician who uses the QEESI diagnostic questionnaire, Michael Robichaux, an otolaryngologist in Raceland, La., outside New Orleans.

Dr. Robichaux said he has treated 50 people for a range of health problems that he believes were caused by exposure to chemicals from the spill. “The illnesses are very real, and the people who are ill are apparently people who have sensitivities to these substances that not all of us are sensitive to,” he told the Huffington Post.

Patients suffering exposure symptoms may feel dizzy or nauseated around engine exhaust, cleaning chemicals, fragrances, or ill after meals, eating certain foods or even drinking one beer or glass of wine. These new intolerances are the hallmark symptom of a disease process called “TILT,” or “Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance.” We know that even so-called “safe” levels of exposure to toxic petroleum-based chemicals like those in the Gulf can initiate TILT. Once TILT develops, it is very difficult to treat, but TILT can be prevented.

To find out whether you may be susceptible to TILT or to track your symptoms, take the QEESI — a validated and published questionnaire I developed. You can download the QEESI at no charge under the “Publications & Presentations” tab.