Big oil, government sacrifice kids for profits

While the big oil companies and the government collude to get more offshore oil rigs up and running, scientists are busy warning us of the dangers to human health and wellbeing of the pollution that inevitably comes with offshore drilling.

On May 1, Science Daily published an article warning of the danger to fetal development from chemicals found in crude oil.

Congenital heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death in children and can be a chronic lifelong condition. A scientific study carried out by Dr. D. Gale McCarver and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that up to 82 percent of children studied may have had fetal exposure to the chemicals in crude oil and to other oil-based solvents.

Two of the many (there are seventeen or so deadly chemicals involved) that could cause abnormal heart development in a fetus are ethyl benzene and trichloroethylene, or TCE.

Fetuses can be contaminated with ethyl benzene by exposure to crude oil in spills such as the gigantic BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico or the one caused by Exxon in Alaska by the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. Besides oil spills, fetal contamination can occur when a woman breathes car emissions, gasoline vapors or tobacco smoke.

We also have to be on guard against TCE, which is found at hazardous waste dumps as well as in commercial products (spot removers, degreasers, and other types of cleaning products).

An earlier report in SD detailed warnings from Professor Bongsup Cho, a leading researcher funded by the American Cancer Society and National Institutes of Health, regarding the chemicals in the tar balls found along the coast and out to sea in the Gulf as a result of the BP oil spill.

These tar balls are contaminated with the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke and diesel exhaust. Professor Cho is worried about their effect on wildlife and animals in the food chain and what can happen to humans when they are exposed to them – either in nature or in the food chain (eating fish or shrimp, for example.)

These chemicals, besides being carcinogens, can also cause DNA mutations and birth defects. Professor Cho thinks that “orange sheen” is another potential human health hazard. This is the sheen covering much of the Gulf as a result the chemical interaction of crude oil and the chemicals used by the oil companies to disperse it.

With all these deadly chemicals being dumped in the environment, scientists are being prevented from even finding out what many of them are – there are some 80,000 of them – because the corporations are more interested in their profits than in people. Worse, the government permits them to keep secret some of the chemicals they are dumping [what we don’t know can’t hurt us!]. Professor Cho says, with regard to orange sheen, “Nobody knows what’s in that color [he means nobody outside of the oil companies] and how toxic the chemicals are. Companies keep the chemical makeup of the dispersants secret.”

It’s about time our government started forcing these private corporations to take more interest in protecting people and the environment. Nationalizing them and letting the workers run them would be a good first step.

Photo: Jaypeg21 CC 2.0


Thomas Riggins
Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins has a background in philisophy, anthropology and archeology. He writes from New York, NY. Riggins was associate editor of Political Affairs magazine.