Thursday, August 29, 2013

State to provide health screenings of Mayflower residents to look for oil spill-related sickness

Posted By and on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge cover1_26_.jpg

Gov. Mike Beebe announced today that the state Department of Health, working with UAMS, will provide health assessments for Mayflower residents who believe they're suffering conditions related to the March 29 oil spill. 

This decision comes three weeks after the Times published a cover story on Mayflower residents who live outside of the mandatory evacuation zone in the Northwoods subdivision, who believe that the aerosolized chemicals in the heavy Canadian crude that spilled have made them sick. They said that ExxonMobil and government officials had ignored their concerns. 

These health screenings will likely be seen by residents as welcome news, but what's really needed is a long term health study on the effects of exposure. As Lisa Song explained in an article for our partner news outfit InsideClimate News, there's no scientific understanding of what breathing in chemicals means for long term health.

UPDATE: We reached Ann Jarrell, the Mayflower resident from the cover above, who has been persistently sick since the spill and whose daughter and grandson, who were living with her at the time, have also been sick. She said U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin called her just moments earlier, to let her know he'd followed through on the promise he made to her and other residents earlier in the week, to press the governor's office to offer better medical care to people affected by the spill. "It’s a step in the right direction anyway," Jarrell said. "He gave us what we asked for, even if we have to drive to Conway to get it. I feel good. This shows they know there’s a problem and they’re trying to help us."

She said she hopes word will reach people in Mayflower who might not otherwise know what's available to them. "It’ll be in the paper, so people in Mayflower will actually see it," she said. "There are a lot of people in Mayflower who don’t get out of the neighborhood."

The full release, including details of how to set up a screening, are on the jump.

LITTLE ROCK - Governor Mike Beebe announced today that the Arkansas Department of Health, working with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), will provide health assessments for Mayflower residents who have health concerns believed to be related to the oil spill of March 29. 

These health assessments will be available to affected Mayflower residents, by appointment only, at the Faulkner County Health Unit in Conway. Appointments may be made by calling (501) 450-4941, and will be available weekdays beginning September 3.

Residents who are assessed will meet with a public-health nurse, who will conduct a confidential interview about health concerns and symptoms that may have developed since the Mayflower oil spill. Following initial interviews, residents may be scheduled for further evaluations via telemedicine resources with specialists from the Department of Health and UAMS. Residents will not be charged for any telemedicine assessments conducted by specialists.

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