Monday, May 31, 2010

What is New with the Oil Spill? Part IV

Part IV

As a reminder of what is going on in the Gulf Of Mexico

Biologist Mandy Tumlin from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and
Fisheries recovers a dead dolphin off of Grand Isle, Louisiana, on
Saturday, May 29, 2010. The dolphin will be taken for testing to see if
its death was due to exposure to toxins from the Gulf of Mexico oil
Link To Info

The Last picture I posted of a Dolphin was one in which its skin was covered with Chemical burns.  This one seems to have avoided that fate, but if it did die of exposure to toxins, will we ever hear about it?  Not if BP and officials have their way as we are not being kept informed of the true nature of what is happening with any and all aspects of this spill.

Do you suppose if pictures like these were on the news cycles constantly that people would be more up in arms about this?  I do and I think that is the exact reason that these types of photo are not on the 24 hour cycle.

We have more or less stopped the majority of the clean up efforts despite what we hear from both BP & the Coast Guard, as all boats and crew that were out on the gulf cleaning up the oil were recalled after several people got sick due to exposure to the toxic chemicals from both the oil itself and the chemicals in the dispersant being used.     This was not unexpected as Dr. Riki Ott has predicted this would happen and has even written to and personally spoken to members of congress about the effects of these chemicals on the body and brain of people as well as animals (and she did this prior to this spill, but since the spill occurred, she has been vocal about the dangers).  

Oil cleanup ships ordered to shore after crew members report illness

The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday ordered all ships participating in the BP oil spill cleanup in Breton Sound, La., to cease operations for the time being after crew members on three boats  reported health problems.

Four crew members reported nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains Wednesday afternoon after working near the oil. One person was flown to West Jefferson Hospital in Marrero, La., another was taken to the same facility by boat, and two were transported by ambulance, according to the Joint Incident Command in Houma, La.. The other crew members refused treatment at the dock.
The illnesses came a day after  BP  reported that it had heard no health complaints from local fishermen who had taken jobs with the company, laying booms and skimming oil from the Gulf. The Times reported that several fishermen complained of similar symptoms while working around oil and chemical  dispersants.
Even as the oil company dismissed the claims, a Louisiana congressman pressed a request to the federal Health and Human Services Department for assistance in placing mobile health clinics in rural areas of south Louisiana where oystermen and shrimpers live.
As a precaution, the Unified Command directed all 125 of the commercial vessels that had been outfitted with equipment for oil recovery operations in the Breton Sound area to return to their temporary accommodations.  Medical personnel were being sent to evaluate the remaining crew members as an additional precaution.
Oil cleanup ships ordered to shore after crew members report illness

Despite knowing of the potential dangers of exposure to the chemical soup, clean up crews have not been given the proper equipment needed to protect themselves from this exposure and instead of supplying the people with the proper equipment (which consists of rubber boots, rubber gloves, protective clothing and special respirators) instead they have simply called the boats in and refused to allow people to go back out.   Where is OSHA in this mess?  Good question.   Why is the Coast Guard, who is the Incident Command on this disaster, allowing this to happen?

At this link you can see for yourself what is considered “Proper Equipment” for those dealing with toxic or hazardous materials, but they do include boots, gloves, &  respirators.
Keeping Workers Safe During Oil Spill Response & Clean Up Operations:
OSHA Regulations

How often have you seen pictures of those working down there wearing the respirators?
A friend in New Orleans is concerned about the oil fumes now engulfing the southern part of town. He says it “smells pretty strong–stronger than standing in a busy mechanics shop, but not as bad as the bus station in Tijuana.”
State health officials are warning people who are sensitive to reduced air quality to stay indoors, but anyone who experiences the classic symptoms of crude oil overexposure–nausea, vomiting, headaches, or cold or flu-like symptoms–should seek medical help.
This is serious: Oil spill cleanups are regulated as hazardous waste cleanups because oil is, in fact, hazardous to health. Breathing oil fumes is extremely harmful.
After the 2002 Prestige oil spill off Galicia, Spain, and the 2007 Hebei Spirit oil spill in South Korea, medical doctors found fishermen and cleanup workers suffered from respiratory problems, central nervous system problems (headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.), and even genetic damage (South Korea). I have attended two international conferences the past two years to share information with these doctors.
During the Exxon Valdez spill, health problems among cleanup workers became so widespread, so fast, that medical doctors, among others, sounded warnings. Dr. Robert Rigg, former Alaska medical director for Standard Alaska (BP), warned, “It is a known fact that neurologic changes (brain damage), skin disorders (including cancer), liver and kidney damage, cancer of other organ systems, and medical complications–secondary to exposure to working unprotected in (or inadequately protected)–can and will occur to workers exposed to crude oil and other petrochemical by-products. While short-term complaints, i.e., skin irritation, nausea, dizziness, pulmonary symptoms, etc., may be the initial signs of exposure and toxicity, the more serious long-term effects must be prevented.”[1]

Unfortunately, Exxon called the short-term symptoms, “the Valdez Crud,” and dismissed 6,722 cases of respiratory claims from cleanup workers as “colds or flu” using an exemption under OSHA’s hazardous waste cleanup reporting requirements.[2]
Sadly,  sick Exxon cleanup workers were left to suffer and pay their own medical expenses. I know of many who have been disabled by their illnesses – or have died.
I have repeatedly warned Congress in letters and in person to strike that loophole because it exempts the very work-related injuries–chemical induced illnesses–that OSHA is supposedly designed to protect workers from.
Remember the “Katrina Crud” and the “911 Crud?” Standby for the “Gulf Crud” because ourfederal laws do not adequately protect worker safety or public health from the very real threat of breathing oil vapors, including low levels typically found in our industrial ports, our highways during rush hour traffic, and our urban cities.
Oil is not only harmful to people, it is deadly to wildlife. I am sickened to think of the short-term destruction and long-term devastation that will happen along America’s biologically rich coastal wetlands – a national treasure and a regional source of income.
Riki Ott: Lessons From the Exxon Valdez Spill

BP learned a lot of lessons from the Exxon Valdez spill and is in full PR spin mode right now and it seems that our current administration is willing to go along with it.   BP has refused to allow the proper equipment for clean up crews and it has been suggested by several people that BP has also told people that if they use the proper equipment they will be fired.   Why?  PR baby, PR.   How bad would it look on television if you had tons of people walking around in special respirators to protect themselves?   It would make things look much worse than what BP is trying to imply the situation truly is.   We can’t have that now can we?

For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. As recently as Tuesday, BP spokesperson Graham MacEwen told the Los Angeles Times he was unaware of any health complaints among cleanup workers. BP has refused to provide respirators to many hired fishermen, and the company has reportedly threatened to fire workers who use their own respirators on the job.
(Transcript of interview between and Juan GONZALEZ & AMY GOODMAN
and  guests  Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.  Albert Huang, environmental justice attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
BP Threatens Workers With Firing & Refuses to Provide Or Allow Respirators

BP 'systemic failure' endangers Gulf cleanup workers

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators complained in a scathing internal memo about "significant deficiencies" in BP's handling of the safety of oil spill workers and asked the Coast Guard to help pressure the company to address a litany of concerns.
The memo, written by a Labor Department official earlier this week and obtained by McClatchy , reveals the Obama administration's growing concerns about potential health and safety problems posed by the oil spill and its inability to force BP to respond to them.
BP said it's deployed 22,000 workers to combat the spill, which experts now estimate has spewed 37 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico . At this point, much of the oil remains offshore.
David Michaels , the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health who wrote the memo, raised the concerns on Tuesday, the day before seven oil spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after they experienced nausea, dizziness and headaches.
Late Friday, the disaster response team sent four more workers to the hospital by helicopter, including two with chest pains.
In his memo to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen , Michaels said his agency has witnessed numerous problems at several work sites and staging areas through the Gulf Coast region.
"The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in clean-up operations," Michaels said in the memo.
"I want to stress that these are not isolated problems," he continued. "They appear to be indicative of a general systemic failure on BP's part, to ensure the safety and health of those responding to this disaster."
Michaels added that BP "has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety
and health information on injuries and exposures."
Michaels raised the alarm about BP as his own agency was coming under fire for not being aggressive enough in monitoring the company or the contractors who are providing oil spill cleanup training.
Graham MacEwen , a spokesman for BP, maintained that his company is being responsive to any problems as they develop.
"We consider safety a number one priority," he said. "We will continue to try to improve our safety record."
A Big Difference Between Reports by Boots On The Ground & What BP Is Claiming Regarding Worker Safety

To date nearly ¾ of a million gallons, over 700,000 gallons of the dispersant CoreXit have been dumped into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  This is the largest use of toxic dispersants ever used in history, and lest we forget this is a substance which has been banned in other countries due to its toxicity in sea & wildlife.

The potential for health problems with the human population is great, and the threat to the sea and wildlife is even greater.

The two types of dispersants BP is spraying in the Gulf of Mexico are banned for use on oil spills in the U.K. As EPA-approved products, BP has been using them in greater quantities than dispersants have ever been used in the history of U.S. oil spills.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit, which EPA data appear to show is more toxic and less effective on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire.
BP Using Dispersant’s In Gulf Spill That Are Banned in UK

Air tests from the Louisiana coast reveal human health threats from the oil disaster
The media coverage of the BP oil disaster to date has focused largely on the threats to wildlife, but the latest evaluation of air monitoring data shows a serious threat to human health from airborne chemicals emitted by the ongoing deepwater gusher.
Louisiana Environmental Action Network released its analysis of air monitoring test results by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's air testing data comes from Venice, a coastal community 75 miles south of New Orleans in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish.
The findings show that levels of airborne chemicals have far exceeded state standards and what's considered safe for human exposure.
For instance, hydrogen sulfide has been detected at concentrations more than 100 times greater than the level known to cause physical reactions in people. Among the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure are eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, dizziness, confusion and headache.
The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion. But as recently as last Thursday, the EPA measured levels at 1,000 ppb. The highest levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide measured so far were on May 3, at 1,192 ppb.
Testing data also shows levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana's own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.
Louisiana's ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb (parts per billion), while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer, while the EPA considers methylene chloride a probable carcinogen.
Air testing results show VOC concentrations far above these state standards. On May 6, for example, the EPA measured VOCs at levels of 483 ppb. The highest levels detected to date were on April 30, at 3,084 ppb, following by May 2, at 3,416 ppb.

Air Tests From Louisiana Coast Reveal Human Health Threats From The Oil Spill Disaster

Now this information tells us that not only are the levels off the charts for what is considered acceptable, but it is to be expected with these levels that people will get sick.  So knowing this why are there not warnings being sounded about the dangerous nature of what is being found?  Tourists have still been encouraged to visit and take their vacations with the claims of the area being safe, and yet all the information we are finding is saying the exact opposite, and imagine the danger to the people living here and breathing in these high levels of toxicity on a daily basis for who knows how long.  Do we think that things will be any different than they were for those who suffered health problems during and after the Exxon Valdez spill?  It will be far worse because there is a larger spill, with more dispersants being used than any other time in history and there is a larger concentration of people not to mention the length of time that this has been going on and will continue to go on.  We know that the relief wells will not be able to be completed drilling until August at the earliest, so we are talking months and months of exposure .

Coastal Wildlife Vulnerable to Gulf Oil Spill:

Link To Above InfoGraphic Provided by Defenders Of Wildlife

The Material Safety Data Sheet on the CoreXit (Dispersant being used to hide the oil from the spill) shows that no toxicity studies were done on this product.

Material  Safety Data Sheet for CoreXit

If you look at #3 titled Hazardous Identification on that data sheet you will see this:

**Emergancy Overview** and it states:

Combustible.Keep away from heat. Keep away from sources of ignition - No smoking. Keep container tightly closed. Do not getin eyes, on skin, on clothing. Do not take internally. Avoid breathing vapor. Use with adequate ventilation. In caseof contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water and seek medical advice. After contact with skin, washimmediately with plenty of soap and water.Wear suitable protective clothing.Low Fire Hazard; liquids may burn upon heating to temperatures at or above the flash point. May evolve oxides ofcarbon (COx) under fire conditions. May evolve oxides of sulfur (SOx) under fire conditions


Then we have #11 titled “Toxicological Information”

No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product.

And yet if you jump to #16 titled  “Other Information” it states:

We have evaluated our product's risk as follows:
* The human risk is: Low
* The environmental risk is: Low

So we have a lot of conflicting information on this “Self Report” by the makers of CoreXit.  They have evaluated the product’s risk as low to both humans and the environment but I would have to ask, low in comparison to what?  Why a hazard warning, and why are their reports we have from the Exxon Valdez spill that indicates the exact opposite of what the Safety Data Sheet is saying?   And again if there is low toxicity levels then why is it banned in the UK due to the toxic nature?  There seems to be no question that this substance is harming both the sea & wildlife but is adding to the toxicity problems among the human population as well, so why was its use not stopped altogether?

BP was actually told to stop using it and they told the EPA no.  BP sent along its own findings stating that they felt it was the best possible option and that it would continue to use it.  We already know that it isn't the best possible option, and that BP already had ordered other dispersant's which are or were sitting in Houston Tx just waiting to be used (they were bought and paid for by BP as I indicated in a previous post),  but we also know that there is a direct connection between BP and the company that makes CoreXit.   That does seem to be a reoccurring theme throughout this disaster.

Once BP said no to the EPA, one would think that our government officials would have stepped in if the EPA didn't have the balls to step up to the plate and do something about BP's refusal to follow the demands of our own Environmental Protection Agency, but instead the EPA just backed down altogether and asked (not demanded) that BP use less of the dispersant than they were currently doing.   That seems to have been the compromise.

So as we can see, BP has been running this show from day 1 regardless of what the President and his administration are telling us.  They have deferred to BP in nearly every instance and this has been happening all along and looks to continue this way.

More to come in Part V.....


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