The People Who Helped Clean the BP Oil Spill are Getting Sicker

Three years after BP’s Gulf oil spill and the damage continues. As proof that no good deed goes unpunished, those who helped clean up after the spill have been found to have weakened blood supplies, as well as a heightened risk of acquiring cancer.

Dr. Mark D’Andrea, a researcher at Houston’s University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers, found that the quality of health for many of the oil spill cleaners has decreased significantly. Though the subjects initially showed less significant symptoms like headaches, coughing, and rashes, years later, these same patients show blood irregularities, liver dysfunction and kidney problems.

Moreover, these health diagnoses tend to be early indicators of or heightened risks for various cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, liver, pancreas, or gallbladder cancer. It is expected that more of BP’s temporary workers will show signs of serious illness as the years progress.

The sad health news is a reminder that – despite what BP and the U.S. government have declared – the recovery process from the spill is far from over. BP may be prepared to absolve itself of further responsibility for the accident, but that doesn’t mean the environment, wildlife and human lives are done suffering the consequences.

BP has aired patently untrue ads that say, “The oil is gone from the Gulf and everything is as it was before!” even as sea creatures continue to die and – as of last month – oil continues to wash ashore.

Egregiously, BP is actually trying to portray itself as the victim at this point, claiming it is the subject of frivolous lawsuits because of the oil spill. A BP spokesman said, “Today we are working to ensure that our willingness to do the right thing is not taken advantage of and distorted to provide windfalls to undeserving businesses.” It seems that, from BP’s perspective, any damage that was readily apparent in 2010 must be fraudulent.

More than 150,000 people contributed to the oil spill cleanup efforts in differing capacities, meaning a lot of people could see their health decline after trying to fix BP’s mistakes. Many of the people that BP hired to tackle the problem were unemployed individuals desperate for an income no matter the personal risks.

The link between oil exposure and cancer is well established. Oil contains benzene, a carcinogenic ingredient that is readily absorbed through the skin. However, oil may not be the only culprit for the cleaners’ health effects: the highly toxic chemicals BP used to eliminate the oil are also suspected to have played a role.

In a prepared statement, BP declared, “Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, response worker and or public exposures to dispersants were well below levels that would pose a health or safety concern.”

Unfortunately, BP is likely to get off easy when it comes to caring for these workers down the road. While BP must pay for medical bills for situations that are provably caused by oil exposure, substantiating just that will be no simple task. Since research on the health consequences for previous groups of oil spill cleaners is essentially nonexistent, former temp workers may have a hard time demonstrating a corporation with billions of dollars on its side was conclusively responsible for their cancer.

BP’s response to the latest study is predictable: rather than acknowledging any responsibility for the workers’ health problems, the company has chosen to attack the validity of the research.

Meanwhile, D’Andrea and his research team intend to continue working with the affected oil spill cleaners. The next step is to examine them for long-lasting lung and respiratory repercussions.

Photo Credit: Kris Krug

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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago

this illness news is going to get a lot worse! as Gulf residents stay around the area, trying to make a living, nobody even knows what they may begin to get ill with. I can't help but also add, regarding ocean waters, that as the destroyed power plant, Fukashima, continues to send radiation into the water . . . what will be come the new normal???

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago

these documented health problems are absolutely no surprise at all. F@#$ bp!

Mary L.
Mary L.2 years ago

BPilate washing it's hands of responsibility and crying, "Not me! Not my fault!" No surprise.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray2 years ago

Healthcare should be available to these loyal people who sacrificed their lives for the planet!

Lynnl C.
Lynn C.2 years ago


Julie D.
Julie D.2 years ago

It is not just BP that is infuriating. It is our politicians who no longer enter politics in order to serve the people but to serve themselves by gaining insider information, and making contacts with sources who will pay them in graft. It is our corporate owned and censored news media who do not cover these stories and make them top news items so that the general public is made aware of them, but instead talk about Miley Cyrus and opening day at the horse races. It is Big Oil overall who destroys our earth and our lives in order to hang on to their monopoly and keep us dependent on them when there ARE other alternative fuels and energy sources that could be made available to replace them. The Trans Pacific Partnership proposal which is secretly being negotiated and pushed forward is about to make all of this even worse. Please do some research on it and become informed, it is a frightening and evil thing beyond all the worst we have already seen as far as protecting and allowing corporate greed to thrive and wreak havoc on our lives, not only in our own country but worldwide, it is evil incarnate. Meanwhile BP is allowed to air commercials endlessly depicting themselves as benevolent do-gooders, claiming the Gulf is clean and the fishing industry is thriving and the seafood is safe to eat and tourism is at an all time high. Flat out BS and lies.

Nils Anders Lunde


Brian M.
Past Member 2 years ago

BP doesn't care. The government doesn't care. We are going to have to find ways to take care of ourselves until such time as we get some real system change to clean the filth out of our economy and our government.

Sonali G.
Sonali G.2 years ago

When will they ever be held accountable for the damage that they have done!?