Posted on June 18, 2010 at 12:58 PM
Friday, Jun 18 at 1:23 PM
It’s been two months since the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico burst forth. Thousands of people, workers and volunteers, have flocked to the coast to help with the cleanup.
One San Antonio doctors says those people are at risk of long-term health problems.
No one knows exactly how many people are involved in the Gulf oil spill cleanup. Estimates are 30,000 to 40,000 paid workers and volunteers are chipping in to help minimize the damage from this enormous environmental disaster.
U.T. Health Science Center Dr. Claudia Miller says thousands of them may end up with long-term health problems due to chemical exposure.
“And it’s really hard at that point to unravel and to improve the person’s health,” Miller said. “Kind of like once they get sick, it’s dealing with Humpty Dumpty. It’s hard to put them back together again.”
Miller has studied what’s called Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance” or TILT. It’s a theory that says repeated and extended exposure to petrochemicals and cleaning agents can cause new intolerances that didn’t exist before.
These can appeal as “allergies” to household cleaners, exhaust, fragrances, medicines, even food.
Hazmat suits and gloves may protect against skin exposure, but won’t do much about vapors. Scientists are just beginning to understand why large groups of people develop these strange long-term symptoms after exposure.
“Some people think it may be sensitization of certain nervous system pathways,” Miller explained. “Others feel it might be immunological. But, in fact, this appears to be an entirely new disease mechanism.”
Miller has helped develop a questionnaire for patients and doctors to determine if they’re suffering from TILT. But it’s still a very mysterious health threat.
Miller’s screening questionnaire for chemical intolerance is available free of charge online.