Long-term health problems for BP cleanup workers
The explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig claimed a 12th life when Captain William Allen-Kruse shot himself in June of 2010. Allen-Kruse worked for 20 years as a charter boat fisherman on the Gulf Coast. His livelihood was ended by the Gulf oil spill, and his wife Tracy’s seafood was also severely hampered. Family, friends, and coworkers said he was distraught about losing his business and then being forced to work for BP on the cleanup. (Telegraph)
Like thousands of other fishermen and area residents, Allen-Kruse depended on the seafood industry to earn his living. The cruel irony of being at the mercy of the same company that ended his profession was too painful for him in the end. (LA Times)
As part of its compensation plan, BP pledged to hire local workers as part of a cleanup program.
In theory this sounded agreeable to those who were desperate for work. In practice, it resulted in further mistreatment and problems. BP excluded many local fishermen from participating in the program. Those who were selected may fare even worse in the long run. BP required the workers to sign contracts forbidding all contact with the press. Even worse, these workers were not provided with proper safety training and equipment. They were directly exposed to dangerous chemicals. BP told that them that the crude oil was “non-toxic.”
Thousands of Gulf Coast workers are now in danger of developing serious health problems because of exposure to toxins from the BP spill. Many more may also be at risk, as scientists warn of the possibility of long-term harm to the general public. Numerous complaints were filed with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Symptoms included chest pains, skin-and-eye-irritation, nausea, nose bleeds, breathing problems, and headaches. (Esquire)
Weitz & Luxenburg currently represents hundreds of people in the Gulf Coast who have been harmed by the BP oil spill. We are committed to providing you the information and legal assistance you need.
Workers at risk of long-term harm
Cleanup workers, not surprisingly, are often at the highest risk of developing health problems related to exposure. Merle Savage worked as a cleanup person in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Although in good health at the time, with no history of smoking or drinking problems, she soon developed major health complications after only weeks of inhaling crude oil mist during the cleaning process. These problems lasted for twenty years. They included cirrhosis of the liver, pneumonia, coughing spells, and violent diarrhea.
Marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott studied the effects of the Exxon spill on cleanup workers. "The Exxon Valdez oil was considerably less toxic than Louisiana sweet crude, and it wreaked havoc on any life forms that encountered it," she said. "We are setting up here for a giant human tragedy — decades of misery — especially if a storm or hurricane spreads it to normal everyday people onshore."
Arlen Braud is an attorney representing a group of Louisiana workers suing BP. “The average age of a person working in Valdez was fifty-one and they're mostly dead now," she said. "One of my clients had severe migraines and respiratory problems after traveling near the dispersants. Braud said that BP is actually telling workers that they can’t have lawyers possibly because "lawyers might warn people about the health effects ten years down the road."
James Giordano, director of the Center for Neurotechnology Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, said: “There is overwhelming evidence that many of the compounds found in crude oil are dangerous. It will be important to have a regional and national public health effort to assess the health impact.” He added that “this is a slowly evolving process. You may not see symptoms for weeks to months following exposures. It’s very insidious.” (LA Times)
While the exact effects of the oil spill are still being investigated and debated, it is clear that BP has done too little too late to protect the lives, health, and safety of workers, Gulf residents, and the public at large.
One example of the company’s negligence is exemplified by their four-hour crash-course in safety given to cleanup workers. Typically, safety courses last about 40 hours. According to the public journalism organization ProPublica, a Health and Human Services official reported that BP’s course failed to address the risks of chemical inhalations and direct contact with crude oil.
"The class was about how to put your hardhat, boots, and glasses on," commented one worker who took the course. "The trainer was essentially a motivational speaker trying to get us excited about the money and the free lunch. It was a joke. He added that “there was not one word about inhalation or absorption; it was skipped over completely. They said we don't want a respirator because we aren't trained to use it, and the permit card had a disclaimer about how the training is in no way comprehensive.”
If you have been affected by exposure to toxic chemicals from the BP spill, or have a family member who has, please do not hesitate to contact Weitz & Luxenburg immediately for a free consultation.
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