Locals Track Oil Spill's Health Impacts, Paving Way for Federal Study

"NEW ORLEANS -- An approaching storm had silenced relief-well drills and grounded wildlife rescue boats. But inside a small storefront office along a busy street here, the nongovernmental engine of response to the Gulf of Mexico gusher was gunning ahead despite the rain.

At the headquarters of the nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental group that has embarked on an ambitious oil-leak mapping project and conducted hundreds of post-spill health surveys, member action associate Shannon Dosemagen was helping a colleague enter results into an online database during last week's washout day on the coast.

The 86-day release of more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf has "largely been seen as an environmental disaster," Dosemagen said. "But the things we're tracking are the health impacts, cultural losses, economic impacts."

That tracking work can be slow-going, as the group's volunteers station themselves in convenience stores, marinas, and bars where residents of the state's rural southern bayous congregate. The group's two-page survey, which focuses on unusual symptoms experienced following oil or dispersant exposure and attempts to control for over-the-counter medication use, has produced anecdotal reports of health problems that respondents did not initially realize."

Elana Schor reports for Greenwire August 19, 2010.

Friday, August 20, 2010