Why Are Doctors Keeping Their Distance?

The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine is meeting today and tomorrow to conduct a review of the “Federal Response to the Health Effects Associated with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.” Sounds good, right? The coming together of some of the brightest doctors and researchers to discuss the health implications from human exposure to 4.9 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of Corexit seems like an important undertaking, and it is.However, I question the decision by the Academy to host this gathering in TAMPA, FL. Nothing against Tampa, it’s just that Tampa is kind of far away from places where we’ve been getting the most reports of people falling ill and testing positive for Hydrocarbons. Why couldn’t this gathering, which is open to the public and, in fact, encourages public commenting, be held somewhere like Gulf Shores, AL or Mobile? Heck, I hear that Bay St. Louis, Mississippi has great casino hotels with plenty of conference space, and since we’re gambling with people’s health in the Gulf region these days, it seems like a good fit. With session titles like “A Workshop to Obtain Input on the Gulf Long-term Follow-up of Clean-up Workers Study” , doesn’t it make more sense to be closer to those doctors treating those workers, much less the workers themselves?Could it be that the Institute of Health members are wary of having their rendezvous in say, Orange Beach, where so many people have taken ill? Regardless of what factors led to their choosing Tampa over somewhere closer to the clean-up workers themselves, say Houma (pronounced Home-ah, not Hoom-ah) or even New Orleans, the decision sends an unhealthy message to residents along the Gulf Coast especially those who are too sick to make the trip.Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for the GRN.

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