Bio-Remediation or Bio-Hazard? Dispersants, Bacteria and Illness in the Gulf
by Rikki Ott, Marine Toxicologist and Exxon-Valdez survivor
…I first heard about the rash from Sheri Allen in Mobile, Alabama. Allen wrote of red welts and blisters on her legs after “splashing and wading on the shoreline” of Mobile Bay with her two dogs on May 8. She reported that “hundreds of dead fish” washed up on the same beach over the following two days. This was much too early for the summer sun to have warmed the water to the point of oxygen depletion, but not too early for dispersants and dispersed oil to be mixed into the Gulf’s water mass. By early July, Allen’s rash had healed, leaving black bruises and scarring.
I have heard from Gulf residents and visitors who developed a rash or peeling palms from contact with Gulf water, including such activities as swimming or wading, getting splashed, handling oiled material or dead animals without gloves, and shucking crabs from the recently opened Gulf fisheries. I have also heard from people who developed the same symptoms after contact with Gulf air by wiping an oily film off their airplane’s leading edges after flying over the Gulf (absorbent pad tested positive for oil) or swimming in outdoor pools, or splashing in puddles, after it rained.
To make things a little scarier, some of the oil-eating bacteria have been genetically modified, or otherwise bioengineered, to better eat the oil — including Alcanivorax borkumensis and some of the Pseudomonas. Oil-eating bacteria produce bio-films. According to Nurse Schmidt, studies have found that bio-films are rapidly colonized (p. 97) by other Gram-negative bacteria — including those known to infect humans.
Read the rest of the article and see photos here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/riki-ott/bio-remediation-or-bio-ha_b_720461.html