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Aboud calls on President Carmona: Declare La Brea a disaster zone

Saturday, January 11, 2014
Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali, right, chats with workers employed in the clean up operation of the oil spill at Coffee Beach, La Brea yesterday. Hassanali along with other top officials toured the affected areas to get a first-hand view of the operations. PHOTO COURTESY PETROTRIN

Petrotrin’s admission that it used the highly toxic dispersant Corexit A9500 in the La Brea oil spill clean-up has prompted calls for residents to be evacuated from affected areas immediately. Yesterday, both La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey and secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) Gary Aboud called for residents to be removed for their protection. The dispersant has been flagged internationally for its toxicity and cancer-causing components.



Jeffrey said he wanted to get confirmation on the use of Corexit and its effects before he commented on its toxicity, but said he still believes residents should be relocated. “Residents should move, I am still seeking relocation for the residents,” he said. Aboud, in a telephone interview yesterday, expressed outrage that the state-run oil company had used the dispersant in the face of scientific data highlighting significant health risks.


“That is gross negligence and incompetence,” he declared yesterday as he called for President Anthony Carmona’s intervention. He said the residents, all of whom have been exposed since the December 17 oil spill, should be removed and tested for exposure and contamination.


“We are very concerned. We continue to appeal to his Excellency to declare the area a disaster zone, to forcefully remove all residents and create a disaster buffer zone. We are appealing to the government to immediately take blood tests of the affected residents,” he added. Corexit, like other oil dispersants, emulsifies oil into tiny beads, which then sink and are degraded further. 


A Huffington Post article titled, “Corexit, Oil Dispersant Used By BP, Is Destroying Gulf Marine Life, Scientists Say,” said, “Evaporation concentrates the toxins in the oil-Corexit mixture, including dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), known to cause cancer and developmental disorders.” It is this that has raised alarm bells for Aboud and Marc De Verteuil of Papa Bois Conservation. 



Aboud described the situation as a “complete nightmare.” He said it is critical for blood tests to be performed on all those exposed to the oil spill and the hydrocarbon fumes, because once PAHs get into the human bloodstream they cannot be removed. The blood tests, he said, will give an indication of the PAHs in the blood content which would determine the medium-term risk of exposure. He warned that in two or three years from now people in La Brea may suddenly turn up with various forms of cancers. 


Corexit is listed in the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan as an authorised dispersant/cleaner. Aboud said it was gross incompetence to have recommended the product when Corexit has been scientifically proven to be “carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic.” He said divers, after diving at a 20-metre depth off the La Brea jetty, found oil settled on the sea floor. Aboud said the oil on the seafloor must be removed.


De Verteuil, in a brief interview, said all dispersants have questions surrounding their toxicity and its impact on the ecosystem and humans. While he was guarded about his views on Petrotrin’s Corexit use, De Verteuil said, it is essential that food safety tests are done on seafood from the affected areas.


“I think this is important for two reasons. One for health reasons: consumers have a right to know about the safety of their food. And second, fishermen have been complaining that consumers do not trust the fish caught in the oil-spill-affected areas where dispersants are used,” he said. —with reporting by Zico Cozier




Petrotrin: We had EMA clearance

Petrotrin’s manager of corporate communications Gillian Friday said yesterday: “In response to your questions, please note that approval to use Corexit 9500 on this oil spill was given by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA) personnel.”




Safety sheet

Corexit is made by Nalco, a US company. The manufacturer’s safety sheet says: “Exposure guidelines have not been established for this product.” It recommends that gloves, goggles and standard protective clothing should be used by those working with Corexit. It also says, on carcinogenicity:



“None of the substances in this product are listed as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).” 



On risks associated with using Corexit, it says once the product is used correctly: “We have evaluated the human and environmental hazards and exposures of this product. Based on our recommended use of this product, we have characterised the product’s general risk. This information should provide assistance for your own risk management practices. We have evaluated our product's risk as follows:
• The human risk is: Low
• The environmental risk is: Low.”


Aboud: Stop seismic tests 

Aboud also called for the seismic testing which is being done in the Gulf of Paria to be postponed until the oil spill clean-up is concluded. “It is a double exposure of threat and attack. All we are asking is to postpone the seismic survey for six months. The oil in the ground is not going to run away, so postponing the survey and giving the fishery time to recover is not an unreasonable request. The entire Gulf of Paria needs to be protected as the food basket. 


“They need to start taking samples of the fish in the Gulf of Paria and determine toxicity,” Aboud said.



—with reporting by Zico Cozier 


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