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BP Refuses To Provide Workers With Respirators, Denies Oil Spill Health Risks

BP Refuses To Provide Workers With Respirators, Denies Oil Spill Health Risks

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.


Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.

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Image Credit: Flickr - DeepwaterHorizonResponse - USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.

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3:50PM PDT on Sep 24, 2013

BP should swallow a gallon of their CRAP! BTW, caught this when I just signed the petition that Chris W did!

10:10AM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

What a disgrace. Big business is so out of control.

2:50PM PDT on Jun 7, 2010

Those workers should file a class-action suit against BP... but I have a feeling most of them won't because they're afraid of losing their jobs and references if they do. These corporate bullies really know how to intimidate their employees...

8:37PM PDT on Jun 5, 2010

I think if I felt my health was at risk, I would not be doing that kind of job. If all the workers ceased to work until they had the proper equipment, then BP would have to accommodate. Did the workers leave their common sense at home????

7:54AM PDT on Jun 4, 2010

It is complete and utter bull and irresponsible not to provide and encourage the use of protective gear while handling the oil. Oil is a carcinogen period. We know that. It's common knowledge. Yes, for a lot of people breathing difficulty can be temporary if exposed, all one has to do is get out of it. But what about the long term effects and that people ARE getting sick from over exposure. We KNOW some of these people are going to have life long health problems from this. I find it ridiculous that they aren't making a big deal about encouraging safe clean up. BP, who has put a lot it's public image over the past ten years being an ethical company that is also pursuing clean energy is down the toilet. I understand that a lot of the BS surrounding the clean up is having to do with increased liability and worry that the company will not survive the loss of this devastating accident, but BP would gain a lot of credibility by just stepping up to the plate and saying we will do whatever it takes. And if that means a 100,000 airconditioned haz mat suits so be it. Now that we have the public option we are going to be paying for the cancer treatment of these people, not BP.

7:34AM PDT on Jun 4, 2010

It took about 20 years from spill to ruling for the Supreme Court to decide Exxon v Baker and screw the people of Prince William Sound. You really think this will be any different?

11:04PM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

This is just an indication of what is to come.

12:46PM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

This is completely ridiculous. These people are going to have serious health risks for the rest of their lives possibly, and it's just ignorant for the BP officials to stand by and watch, let alone say there's no way their sicknesses could come from their work.

9:33AM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

If you can smell it you are breathing it in, it's that simple. If employers do not provide employees with protective equipment they are liable for damages sustained by the employees. It is also that simple. What ever happened to OSHA and why doesn't it apply here?

8:29AM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

I've just listened to an announcement by a BP spokesman in which he says they will pay all reasonable claims. Let's not let our anger over the spill turn us into overreactive vipers, ok?

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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