Nightly News   |  August 03, 2010

The oil spill’s littlest victims

NBC’s Kate Snow talked with the kids about the impact the Gulf Oil spill has had on them. The Children’s Health Fund study analyzed 1,200 Gulf Coast families to better understand the adverse effects of the spill.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: Finally tonight, back to the gulf, where the process to finally kill that leaky well has started. But most of the children there are probably thinking

about the start of something else: school, just two weeks away in many places in that region. So many kids there are coping with drastic changes to their lives yet again. In fact, a Columbia University study of 1200 Gulf Coast families finds that kids exposed to the oil spill are twice as likely as other children to report mental or physical health problems. NBC 's Kate Snow talked with some of the youngest victims of this spill in southern Louisiana to see how they're coping.

VICTORIA (Age 8): When you say oil spill , I think of disaster.

KASSIE (Age 6): It's killing the birds and the fish.

KATE SNOW reporting: They've seen enough disaster to last a lifetime.

DES'RAE (Age 14): You know, Katrina , Rita , the oil spill . But other than that, it's a great place.

SNOW: Especially down in the fishing towns of PlaquemineParish . The kids play with their toys while their parents play a kind of grim lottery. Two hundred people and just 125 gift cards to give out today, each worth $100 in groceries.

Ms. VAN TRAHN: And we tell our kids that I'm worry editing, you know.

SNOW: You tell the kids don't worry?

Ms. TRAHN: Yeah.

SNOW: Van Trahn tries to shield her kids from the financial strains, but her son, Rilan , knows why they didn't go on vacation this summer like they'd planned.

RILAN: My mom doesn't have a job, and my dad is a fisherman, and it's going to affect the money -- how much money we have.

SNOW: After Katrina , many groups came down to the gulf to help children cope with that massive devastation. But this disaster is different, the impact on kids more disguised, but very real. At clinics first set up to deal with mental health effects of Katrina ...

Ms. DONNA USNER: Does your mom have a doctor to take you to when you feel sick?

SNOW: ...social worker Donna Usner looks for signs of new distress.

Ms. USNER: If they were initially sleeping through the night and now they're not, if they were initially playing with their friends, but now they won't leave the house.

SNOW: So much anxiety is caused by all the uncertainty in their lives right now.

JOSEPH: They're stopping my daddy's business.

SNOW: Eight-year-old Joseph has been helping out in the seafood store started by his great grandparents since he was three.

Mr. JOE JIMENEZ (Vince's Seafood): I was hoping he'd be the fourth generation. And at this point we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.

SNOW: Kids will tell you their family traditions are slipping away.

MALIKA (Age 13): I love seafood, and that's one thing I love to eat. But now we're getting less of it.

TRISTEN (Age 14): I'm worried about if the fish will be alive by the time I'm old enough and I have kids, if they'll be able to see the fish that I see nowadays.

SNOW: Grownup worries...

KALEY (Age 8): I pray every night to -- so he can get his job back.

SNOW: ...from some of the youngest along the gulf. Kate Snow , NBC News, Port Sulphur, Louisiana.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: And that's our broadcast for