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La Brea residents: Hair loss and rashes still after oil spills

Published: 
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Errol Lee, 76, of Coffee Beach, La Brea, struggled to stand on his doorstep yesterday. He is blaming his exposure to last December’s oil spill for his health woes, which includes severe body pains. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

Residents of Coffee Beach, La Brea, fear for their health after children have developed rashes resistant to medication and a resident began losing hair. 

They are now calling on Petrotrin to immediately intervene and provide medical care for affected residents since they believe their illnesses are linked to their exposure to the December 17, 2013 oil spills and the chemicals used to clean it up. 

This comes eight months after the community was ravaged by oil spills from Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and the company’s Point Fortin installation and four months after dead fish began washing ashore along Coffee Beach. 

Tenesha Modeste, 27, a mother of one, who was once proud of her lovely locks has been forced to cover her head with a pink head wrap after her hair began falling out in patches over the past couple of weeks. 

Yesterday Modeste, who pointed to large bald patches on her head and a rash along her arms and back, said doctors have not found the reason for her hair loss.

She also said no medication was working to give her relief from the rash which has covered her body.

Modeste, who also lost her eyelashes, said she has been to the La Brea Health Centre, Point Fortin hospital and a private doctor and no-one can tell her what is wrong with her. 

“It started to happen when the fish start washing up dead. I had an irritation, my skin start to scratch and burn. 

“My eyes start to swell and my throat start to swell. Now I see my hair dropping, is a month now. Petrotrin not coming here anymore. 

“They don’t have the medical centre in Lake Asphalt they promised us,” Modeste lamented.

She said her son, Israel Regis, 6, and his cousins, have developed rashes which are not going away. 

“We not getting any relief. We want Petrotrin to come back in here and do testing and tell us what is going on. 

“They (doctors) gave us piriton (allergy medication) and prednisolone and it now starting to ease up again but when the medication finish it coming back,” Modeste said.

Her mother, Charmaine Montano, 54, said she had been experiencing numbness in her hands on mornings and body pains.

“I never had that, now I am in pain everyday,” Montano said.

Yesterday discomfort and pain was etched on the face of pensioner Errol Lee, 76, who said his health began to deteriorate drastically since May when dead fish began washing ashore at Coffee Beach.

Lee, who was once vibrant and vocal in the community when the December 17 spills occurred, struggled to get off his couch and walk to his front door. He said pain was now his companion. 

The partially blind man said Petrotrin had turned its back on the residents and left them to suffer. 

He added: “Down here is pressure now. I gone to all kinds of doctors and they cannot tell me the cause.

“I went Gulf View Medical and the doctor want me to do tests that costing $1,500.

“I am a pensioner, where I getting money? Petrotrin said they would take care of the residents, that was ole talk.” 

Tammy Montano, 29, who gave birth to her baby daughter, Aniah, during the spill, said she returned to the area from Tobago three months ago and her eight-month-old baby developed a rash. 

She believes there are still chemical fumes lingering in the atmosphere at Coffee Beach. 

“She did not have any problems, as soon as we come back here she getting rashes,” Montano said.

Contacted for comment Joy Antoine, acting head publications and productions at Petrotrin, said via e-mail, that the concerns raised by residents have been passed to the company’s medical team for its attention.