The damages to individuals and businesses caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are no doubt going to be many and far-reaching. The Tampa Tribune reported on June 17 that more than 200 lawsuits had already been filed in federal courts across the Gulf Coast of Florida, for losses and damages related to the spill. Single-plaintiff and class-action lawsuits are being filed daily by people and businesses suffering the effects, some on behalf of scuba shops, hotels, restaurants and tourism-related retailers. With Florida's economy heavily dependent on tourism and the draw of its coastal areas, the filings are sure to continue.
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Contamination issues are leaking into the commercial fishing industry, and could end up on someone's dinner plate while vacationing in the Sunshine State. The FDA reports that it is monitoring fish and shellfish safety, testing for contamination, and specifically targeting oysters, crabs and shrimp, since they could retain contaminants longer than finfish. The FDA's newly established Incident Management Group is overseeing and coordinating issues related to the oil spill, and has already closed some fisheries as a precautionary measure.
The Associated Press has reported on health problems related to the spill. Florida beachgoers who swallow even small amounts of oil can suffer from upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says that long-term exposure to the dispersants dumped in the Gulf to break up the spill can have much more dire effects, including central nervous system problems or damage to the kidneys or liver.
Doctors in the Gulf area report a pattern of symptoms in the individuals working on the clean-up, which might have been caused by the burning of crude oil, noxious fumes from the oil, or the dispersants. Flu-like symptoms including respiratory problems, headaches and nausea could be the short-term indicators of potential long-term health effects. Court records showed more than 6,700 workers in the Exxon Valdez cleanup efforts suffered respiratory problems, which the company attributed to a viral illness.