Investigating 'Gulf Oil Syndrome' at the Source

I would like to commend the people of Louisiana and Gulf Coast states for their resiliency, and the medical professionals who are dealing with the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The commitment of the communities to clean up this disaster, as well as the attention that is being paid by the health care professionals in the affected areas clearly demonstrates how people can come together for a common goal in times of extreme distress.

I had the opportunity to visit West Jefferson Medical Centerin Marrero, La. last week with some of my producers and a crew from Fox. We had full access to some of the emergency services at the hospital, and I was very pleased to see the advanced technical approach and the systems they have in place for helping workers and first responders deal with the health effects of working with toxins. As we traveled down to Grand Isle, I could see the impact in some of the communities where you would expect to see summer beach houses full of enthusiastic beachgoers, many of them looked vacant. In the quaint fishing towns we drove through, fishing boats sat idle, tied to the docks where they'll remain for the summer while the oil continues to foul the once pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

As we approached the main area where workers came before shipping out to sea, there were some medical tents set up by local hospitals like West Jefferson Medical Center - and another which, to my surprise, was being run by privately contracted BP medical personnel. As I tried to gather information from this private triage area, I was denied access and almost no details were provided to my team to explain some of the injuries and illnesses workers are reporting. But when I spoke to some of the doctors and nurses at West Jefferson Medical Center, they told me that many of the complaints that they were seeing were due to irritations from exposure to oil, the fumes from the burning of the oil and perhaps some of the dispersants being used. They said the workers they treated had complained of symptoms like nausea, headache, chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness and irritation of the eyes, throat and lungs.

We don't know yet what the long-term medical impact is going to be for the workers and their families, or the communities affected by the oil spill. But one thing is for sure, in an area still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the post traumatic stress disorder that this disaster has already started to create is clearly visible in the faces of the people I met.