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‘Gulf Coast Syndrome’

Published: May 15, 2011
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Source: CSIndy

"This is the best-hidden secret perhaps in the history of our nation."

Dr. Mike Robichaux speaks into a microphone while standing on a truck bed in the shade of a massive tree in his yard in Raceland, La. He's wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans, and his white-gray hair is parted neatly. The former state senator, known affectionately as Dr. Mike, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Lafourche Parish and self-described "too easygoing of a guy." But today, he's pissed.

"Nobody is fussing about this," he says.

Robichaux invited his patients and dozens of others to speak about their situations. Outside of neighborhood papers with names like the Houma Courier, the Daily Comet and Tri-Parish Times, their stories exist solely on blogs and Facebook — unless you visit Al Jazeera English, or sources in Germany, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe.

A Swiss TV crew asks me why U.S. media aren't talking about this. It's a good question.

In the wake of the BP oil disaster, thousands of Gulf cleanup workers and residents have reported illnesses, with symptoms as tame as headaches or as violent as bloody stools and seizures. Nonprofit groups and teams of scientists are looking for answers using blood tests, surveys, maps, and soil and seafood samples.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), a nonprofit environmental group, recently completed its survey of coastal Louisiana residents and found a dire need for medical attention. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) began its "Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study for Oil Spill Clean-Up Workers and Volunteers" (GuLF Study) to follow the health of 55,000 cleanup crew members over 10 years. It's the largest study to monitor the disaster, but it won't be treating its participants. GuLF Study leader Dr. Dale Sandler says the illnesses "need to be taken seriously."

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