Half the people surveyed in the Chalmette area, where oil and gas industry sulfur dioxide emissions have been detected, reported respiratory problems, headaches or eye irritation in a door-to-door survey, the human and environmental watchdog group Louisiana Bucket Brigade reported Thursday, following locals reporting foul odors earlier this month.
Anna Hrybyk, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) program manger, said at a press conference in New Orleans on Thursday that her team surveyed 132 Chalmette residents, and approximately half of those reported health problems.
Chalmette is southeast of downtown New Orleans and is part of the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality confirmed it found high levels of sulfur dioxide in the Chalmette area the evening January 10th. That was the night residents began smelling a nasty odor.
The LABB team chose a 20-square-block radius near some of Chalmette's larger sulfur dioxide emitters, knocked on doors, and asked people at home whether they recently had seen or smelled any chemicals releases and whether they were suffering any health issues as a result.
The Bucket Brigade said that about 90 of the 132 people reported smelling bad odors and nine people said they had visited, or informed, a doctor of their experiences.
On Jan. 11, the DEQ monitoring station in Chalmette Vista neighborhood registered sulfur dioxide levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hourly standard of 75 parts per billion in an hour.
On Jan. 12, the DEQ mobile air unit also measured reading above that standard.
Petroleum often contains sulfur compounds and its combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel.
Sulphur dioxide emissions are a precursor to both acid rain and atmospheric particulates. When sulphur dioxide combines with water, such as the water in the respiratory tract, it becomes sulfurous acid, which is harmful.
Short-term exposure to sulphur dioxide ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours can result in adverse respiratory effects, especially to those with emphysema, bronchitis and/or heart disease.
This reporter experienced some of the same symptoms in Chalmette on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
Sulphur dioxide effects can be more profound on asthmatics, children and the elderly.
Similar incidents have occurred for 20 years, according to LABB founding director Anne Rolfes.
Rolfes has asked that the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to become involved.
Since its creation in 2000, LABB has been campaigning for oil refineries to end human rights violations: releasing unnecessary chemicals.
Human Rights news reporter Deborah Dupré is author of "Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don't want you to know," packed with censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues causing catastrophic human and environmental devastation.
See the "Vampire of Macondo" book trailer, "First book to reveal BP Gulf Oil Human Rights Abuses."
Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For radio and television interviews, email email@example.com.
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