On April 12, 2013, Bridge the Gulf and the Gulf Coast Fund convened a roundtable discussion with people working to bring attention to a public health crisis they have seen unfold since the BP disaster. Participants included a mother from a coastal Louisiana town overcome by chronic illness, a doctor, two scientists and a lawyer.
Kindra Arnesen (pictured) lives in Plaquemines Parish, where Louisiana becomes more ocean than land as it juts out into the Gulf. Her community was hit hard by Katrina and was still rebuilding five years later, but Arnesen describes it as “a very healthy community, a thriving community” before the BP disaster. Her husband is a 45-year-old commercial fisherman and she was shocked to see his health decline a few weeks after the disaster. She and her children also soon became sick with chronic illnesses, and so did many others in her community.
Kindra says, “This is not something that we’re used to here. Our kids are bayou kids. They’re tough.” But she says the change in children’s health has been the most striking: “We have kids down here that are now over 80% bald because their hair has fallen out. Their noses are bleeding… I’ve watched these kids go from healthy, thriving children to a shell of themselves.” Her 11-year-old daughter has been ill for several years now, “She suffers from headaches, nausea, upper respiratory issues, heart palpitations, chest pains, fatigue.”