People will start dying in large numbers if not addressed now writes top attorney to national media

Large portions of attorney Stuart Smith’s open letter to members of the national media is posted for information purposes. Read it in full here.

Where is the National Media Coverage?, The Stuart Smith Blog, February 12, 2011:

… We’re dying down here on the Gulf – and we need your help to restore our way of life and our culture.

The economic devastation is hitting everyone from waitresses to fishermen to restaurateurs to property owners. Figuratively and literally, we’re dying. My neighbors and some of my clients are reporting severe illnesses directly related to the spill. We have names, we have case studies. We even have some local reporters with the courage to cover what is fast becoming a health crisis among cleanup workers and residents living in coastal communities (see But local coverage, compelling as it is, isn’t enough.

We need the attention of the national media, and we need it right away. …

Government officials continue to say we’re all-clear – particularly when it comes to seafood safety. But these are the same BP “partners” who sold you the story of 5,000 barrels a day and rubber-stamped the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit. Let’s not forget when the U.S. Coast Guard became BP rent-a-cops and setup “safety zones” around heavily impacted areas to prevent journalists, photographers and other prying eyes from seeing the damage. Or when there were no underwater oil plumes, until of course, there were. Or the “vast majority of oil is gone” message, until that was laughed out of the debate. I don’t know about you, but I see a pattern here.

We’re awash in oil, dispersant and misinformation. …

Look, four weeks after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began the BP oil spill, some of us were saying that the real story was human health. In fact, my firm and others stepped in to prevent BP from demanding that cleanup workers sign legal waivers (so they couldn’t sue when they got sick or injured). Believe me, BP knew the risk early on. They just didn’t issue a press release.

But it seems the national media is still reluctant to shine a light on human health impacts. The congressional focus has remained on “who’s to blame?” and the media is focused on the claims process. It’s like our homes were firebombed, and the first responders were the arson investigators and insurance agents – rather than firemen with a hose.

A month after the explosion, I wrote that “human health is the real oil spill issue,” but was told “it’s too early to know, we have no test results.” (see Well, after the testing showed high-level toxic exposures, we were told “well, it’s not a story, because nobody is actually sick.” (see Now that people are getting sick all over the Gulf, we’re told “well, how do we know the spill caused it?”

Come on. We all know what it will take to make post-spill human health a story: When people start dying in large numbers. And make no mistake, that’s the next phase if we don’t address it, now. …

Read the report here.

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