After pumping heavy drilling mud and garbage into the open well for days, BP has finally admitted that their top kill attempt has failed. And drilling two relief wells to release the underground pressure now pushing the crude up through the broken pipeline could take months to complete.
While oily tar balls and images of crude-soaked wildlife have been making headlines for weeks now, it’s important to remember that the humans involved with containment and cleanup are also at risk.
BP workers are increasingly being sent to the hospital complaining of symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, difficult breathing and others. The obvious cause of such symptoms is the huge amount of crude oil bubbling up to the surface (some of which evaporates into the air) along with the massive injection of chemical dispersants into the waters (some of which also evaporates). BP claims it’s monitoring air quality, but so far has not gone public with any air quality test results (Natural News).
Last week, Care2′s Ann Pietrangelo reported that Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, requesting temporary health care clinics to serve volunteers and workers in Louisiana.
Just days ago, Sebelius sent her own sternly worded letter to BP Chairman Lamar McKay, urging the company “to take responsibility for the health consequences of the disaster.”
“We’re very concerned about the impact of the disaster on the public health of people in the gulf region,” Sebelius told the Washington Post.
Although the EPA has tested more than 15,000 air samples from Venice, La., to Pensacola, Fla., and more than 500 water and soil samples, none of these tests detected dangerous substances at hazardous levels, according to Sebelius.
“There’s no way you can be working in that toxic soup without getting exposures,” Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s office of solid waste and emergency response, told the Washington Post. Kaufman likened the situation to the World Trade Center cleanup after 9/11, which left workers with long-term respiratory problems despite repeated official claims that workers did not need respirators because the working conditions were safe. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on. It’s like deja vu all over again,” he said.
Both the Huffington Post and DemocracyNow are reporting that BP has refused to provide clean-up workers with repirators because wearing them would create a bad “visual.” It’s also being reported that BP has threatened to fire workers that try to wear their own respirators. View the video clip below for more on this allegation:
Even worse, failing to stop the oil leak through top kill means that BP will soon resume the spraying of massive amounts of chemical dispersants, despite the fact that they were ordered by the EPA to cease until a less toxic alternative could be found.
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Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.
Image Credit: Flickr - DeepwaterHorizonResponse - USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.
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