Louisiana Mother Seeks Respirators for Sons on Oil Spill Clean-Up

June 9, 2010

Kim Chauvin is concerned about the impact of dispersants, especially on her two sons who are fishermen.

Kimberly Chauvin’s family business, the Mariah Jade Shrimp Company, might not exist in a year, but she has bigger concerns right now. She’s focused on researching fitted respirators and protective gear for her sons, David Anthony, 21, and Dustin, 20, who are helping to clean up oil in the Gulf on two of the family’s shrimp boats.

To date, more than one million gallons of the oil dispersant Corexit has been sprayed over hundreds of miles of the Gulf, and Chauvin is increasingly concerned about the side effects of exposure to the chemical.

Kim Chauvin is concerned about the impact of dispersants, especially on her two sons who are fishermen.
“I’ve read about possible fertility issues, respiratory issues and skin cancer in connection with Corexit,” says Chauvin.

When reports surfaced that clean-up workers were being hospitalized for the vague flu-like symptoms associated with exposure to Corexit, Chauvin and her husband, David, started looking into fitted respirators.

“BP ran out of the one-fit masks within the first two weeks of the clean-up effort,” says Chauvin. “A few guys on our boats have gotten sick with all of the symptoms — nausea, vomiting, dizziness. I’m not taking any chances.”

Out-of-work fishermen, like Chauvin’s sons, who are lined up to help with the cleanup don’t have the luxury of studying the chemical hazards and complexities of fitted respirators. That’s why Chauvin is taking up the cause.

“They all have families. One of my sons is married and has a 7-month-old baby. They’re not thinking about the long-term, unstudied side effects of Corexit. They’re trying to pay bills,” says Chauvin.

When her sons come in for the next crew change, they’ll go in for physicals—the first step in getting a fitted respirator. “We’re doing it on our own, and I’m encouraging other fishermen involved in the clean-up to do the same. If we wait for BP to issue this essential gear, we’ll be waiting forever,” says Chauvin.

Chauvin is also looking into cooling vests her sons can wear under the protective suits. “I don’t know who told BP those suits are breathable, but they’re not. My sons say they’re dying out there in the heat.”

Meanwhile, Chauvin has plenty of other things to worry about. Her three shrimp boats are in the Gulf working on the cleanup instead of hauling in the mother-load of brown shrimp everyone anticipated this season. Her dock and processing facility, which typically processes the haul of 55 boats throughout the season, is sitting idle.

Then there’s the estimated $75,000 Chauvin spent on boat and refrigeration maintenance, new equipment and supplies for a shrimping season that will never happen.

Chauvin is also helping other fishermen and their families wade through the bureaucratic maze of paperwork for BP claims.

But on a scale of 1 to 10, getting the respirators is a 10 on Chauvin’s growing list of priorities. “I fear for [my sons’] health more than anything,” says Chauvin. “They’re young and they think they’re invincible. It’s my job as their mother to do whatever it takes to make sure they’re okay.”

More stories like this can be found at LouisianaSeafoodNews.com

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