Former MP believes 2013 oil spill caused lung problems

Former La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery.  PHOTO BY DIEGO NOGUERA -
Former La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery. PHOTO BY DIEGO NOGUERA -

Former La Brea MP and High Commissioner to Jamaica Fitzgerald Jeffrey believes his severe lung condition may have been caused by the December 17, 2013 oil spill at the former state-owned Petrotrin.

Some 7,000 barrels of oil, which reportedly leaked from the company’s ageing infrastructure, made its way to La Brea where Jeffrey was MP in opposition at the time. Petrotrin has since been restructured and its assets vested in Trinidad Petroleum Holdings.

Jeffrey recalled the oil company used the dispersant Corexit 9500, said to be a cancer-causing agent, in the clean-up exercise.

He said he walked in the mangroves and along the coastline from La Brea to Aripero, “in the thick of the things to investigate and do research, breathing in the toxic air."

He also noted at the time, the symptoms experienced by residents exposed to the toxicity of the oil and the dispersant, and predicted that in five to six years people would see the manifestation of the danger posed.

“That time is now,” Jeffrey told the Newsday last week.

“Research needs to be done in La Brea to see how many people are suffering with respiratory problems since that time. That would be interesting.”

The former MP is seeking financial assistance through a GoFundMe account to raise US$1 million for a lung transplant.

Jeffrey said in October 27 he was diagnosed with a severe blood clot to his lungs and one month later was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis at Southern Medical Clinic, San Fernando.

Further tests done at the University of the West Indies Hospital, Mona, where Jeffrey was receiving treatment, revealed he had stage-four pulmonary fibrosis.

He is on medication to treat the illness but said doctors have recommended an urgent lung transplant.

The cost for preparation and the actual transplant of the lung is US$500, 000 and post-lung transplant care is US$500,000.

The former MP, who lives at Vessigny, said he has approached the government for help, although Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he had not been approached by Jeffrey either directly or indirectly.

Jeffrey did not want to comment further on that issue and said he was giving government another chance.

Deyalsingh told the Newsday, government would be willing to help once he met the criteria. He also said there was an arrangement in place to assist people who would have served the country.

“Tell them I am a praying soul and my God will take me through this thing. It is not the first time I have had challenges, and on each occasion my God has rescued me.”

Jeffrey, 69, is a retired secondary school teacher who served as a People’s National Movement (PNM) MP and as a minister in the Ministry of Science Technology and Tertiary Education between 2007-2010 under the Patrick Manning administration.

Under the Dr Keith Rowley-led government, he was appointed as High Commissioner to Jamaica in 2016 until 2018. Former Trinidad and West Indies test cricketer Deryck Murray is the current High Commissioner.

Anyone interested in donating can go to his GoFundMe account or deposit funds to Republic Bank account in the name of Kenneth Gabriel Account# 970 036 178 231.

The former MP said there has been some positive response to his plea for financial help.

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"Former MP believes 2013 oil spill caused lung problems"

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