William worked from June to October 2010 as part of the Vessels of Opportunity program that paid the fishermen BP put out of business to use their boats to clean up its oil. William transported giant bags, called bladders, used to collect oil, to the shore. When he came home at night, says Nicole, his clothes “smelled oily.” Not only were his clothes blackened; so was William.
William’s symptoms began with coughing, then headaches and skin rashes, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. About three to six months later, he started bleeding from his ears and nose and suffering from a heavy cough.
“I ain’t got no money for a doctor,” William quietly tells me, staring down at his hands in his lap. Medicaid covers the kids, but Nicole and William do not have health insurance. “We didn’t know we were gonna get sick. Now I get sick, I stay sick. I don’t sleep. I stay stressed out more than anything. I got bags under my eyes I never had before. I just don’t know if I wanna show people who I am.”
William and Nicole Maurer, and their two young daughters, are among the hundreds of thousands of Gulf residents suffering from the hidden health crisis festering in the region as a result of the toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed. From respiratory ailments to neurological disorders to what’s being called the “BP rash” and more, coastal residents have experienced devastating health effects while BP still hasn’t been held to account. Antonia Juhasz reports on the little-known crisis at length in a special investigation for The Nation.