Lawyers in our firm are still being contacted by workers who have been sickened from the oil spill cleanup. Media reports also continue relating to the strange symptoms being experienced by oil spill cleanup workers throughout the Gulf Coast as a result of their participation in the cleanup program. The workers, who were typically employed either by BP or through one of BP’s subcontractors, were hired to clean or repair boom, soak up oil, clean beaches or decontaminate boats coated with oil and dispersants. Now, it appears workers throughout the Gulf Coast are complaining of the same symptoms long after having left the cleanup program – difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, severe headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and skin and eye irritations.
Unfortunately, oil spill workers never really knew what they were getting themselves into. Oil contains multiple carcinogens, mutagens, and is dangerous at any level of exposure. Compounding the problem was BP’s unprecedented use of toxic chemical dispersants. The two dispersants at issue, COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT EC 9527, contain petroleum-based chemicals and solvents that are known to cause central nervous system, blood, kidney, skin and liver problems.
BP and its contractors went out of their way to tell workers that the chemicals were safe – even though the evidence demonstrates they most assuredly were not. When the workers would specifically ask about the chemicals’ danger, they were told the chemicals were safe “like hand soap.” When workers requested respirators to protect their lungs, BP and their contractors refused – leaving the workers defenseless against inhaling significant quantities of dangerous chemicals over long periods of time. Raising concern over the dangerous condition would mean certain termination, which was something no worker could afford given the lack of alternative work on the Gulf Coast.
It should be noted that the oil spill commission tasked with determining the cause and impact of the BP oil spill expressed significant long-term human health concerns from exposure to oil and dispersants in its final report. The report maintains that response agencies did not initially issue personal safety equipment or guidelines to the workers. The report notes that “they missed the crucial window for screening their baseline physical health before the workers were directly exposed to oil products.”
Now, it appears the fallout is underway. While it is unclear the precise number of injured persons, we believe the impact could number in the thousands. Adding insult to injury, these workers cannot afford basic medical care because their insurance providers have refused coverage and the GCCF is denying the majority of cleanup worker claims. Add to all of this the action of BP and its claims man, Ken Feinberg, and it’s quite evident these folks have serious problems.
Our firm is assisting injured cleanup workers and Gulf Coast residents with filing GCCF claims to pay for medical treatment, and if necessary, proceeding with the filing of lawsuits. These cases are extremely complicated and difficult, but we are fighting hard to make a difference. Anybody suffering from a severe illness as a result of exposure to oil and chemical dispersants, or having questions regarding exposure, can contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our firm, who is working on the BP litigation, at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com, or by telephone at 800-898-2034 for more information.
Sources: The report of the President’s Commission and The Mobile Press Register
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