Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Dangers Oil Spill Clean Up Crews Are Facing

We've heard the reports over and over again.  The oil spill clean up crews are getting sick.  So sick in fact that there have been health centers set up to deal locally with the workers who get ill.

Reports are coming more and more frequently of these workers who are getting ill and they are all complaining of the same symptoms.  Dizziness, headaches, vomiting, difficulty breathing.  Flu like symptoms.

In the past week, 11 workers who have been out on the water cleaning up oil from BP's blown-out well have been treated for what Dietrich calls "a pattern of symptoms" that could have been caused by the burning of crude oil, noxious fumes from the oil or the dispersants dumped in the Gulf to break it up. All workers were treated and released.
"One person comes in, it could be multiple things," he said. "Eleven people come in with these symptoms, it makes it incredibly suspicious."
Few studies have examined long-term health effects of oil exposure. But some of the workers trolling Gulf Coast beaches and heading out into the marshes and waters have complained about flu-like symptoms - a similar complaint among crews deployed for the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

Gulf spill workers complaining of flulike symptoms

BP and U.S. Coast Guard officials have said dehydration, heat, food poisoning or other unrelated factors may have caused the workers' symptoms. Any excuse they can come up with to deny it is illness borne from working with the toxic chemicals they are being subjected to day in and day out trying to clean up the disaster created by BP and their desire to put profit ahead of safety.   
Both BP, The Coast Guard and OSHA are stating that repirator's are not needed as air quality testing shows no need for them.
The head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday said workers hired by BP PLC to clean up spilled oil don't need respirators, despite complaints from some employees and lawmakers about toxic fumes.David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Department of Labor's OSHA, said in an interview Thursday that based on test results so far, cleanup workers are receiving "minimal" exposure to airborne toxins. OSHA will require that BP provide certain protective clothing, but not respirators.

OSHA Tells Clean Up Workers Respirator's Not Needed

We have reports that BP have told worker's if they wear the respirator's they will be fired. 

Fishermen who've been hired to do cleanup and containment work in BP's Gulf Coast oil spill have been told they would be fired for using their own respirators or safety equipment that wasn't provided by BP, reported Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a Louisana-based environmental group.
"It appears that, despite the obvious potential for exposure to respiratory toxins, BP does not consider respiratory protection necessary equipment," said Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper in LEAN's statement. "And even so to prevent the fishermen from using their own respiratory protection if they chose to do so is deeply troubling."

Wearing even your own respirator will get you fired

Fisherman's wife breaks the silence
Kindra Arnesen's husband often calls while he's out on a shrimping trip, so she wasn't surprised to hear her cell phone ring the night of April 29 while he was on an overnight fishing expedition.
However, this time, her husband, David, wasn't calling to tell her about the day's catch or to wish their children Aleena and David Jr. a good night. He was calling to tell her he was sick, and the strange thing about it, so were men on the seven other shrimping boats working near his.
"I received several calls from him saying, 'This one's hanging over the boat throwing up. This one says he's dizzy, and he's feeling faint. Everybody's loading up their stuff, tying up their rigs and going back to the docks,'" Arnesen remembers......
For several weeks, she hesitated to talk publicly about it. Like many fishermen who can no longer fish in the Gulf, her husband has signed a contract to work with BP to clean up the oil, and she doesn't want to bite the hand that puts food on her family's table...........
His wife says he was diagnosed with respiratory problems and prescribed medicines, including an antibiotic and cough medicines.
She says while he's feeling better, he still doesn't have the energy he used to have.
"Here we are over a month later and he's still not completely well," she says......
One of her immediate goals is to persuade BP to give its workers masks.
Graham MacEwen, a spokesman for BP, says the company isn't providing masks because their air monitoring shows there's no health threats to workers.
Arnesen says she is indeed scared that her husband will lose his job now that she's speaking out.

One Gulf Fisherman's Wife Speaks Out

Seriously?  This is how these people are being treated?  They have lost their livelihood, had their way of life stripped from them, their bills are piling up and they are being offered paltry sums to work for the company who did this to them and then they must worry about being fired for showing concern for their health due to the environment they are being forced to work in just to help save their community, the environment that BP screwed up due to putting profit over safety?    Not to mention the fact that they are being told that it is not the toxic fumes they are inhaling constantly day in and day out that are making them sick but they are told it must be something else, when we know that this atmosphere did the exact same things to workers exposed to the same toxic soup during the Exxon Valdez?

What country are we living in?  How is this allowed?  How is this even considered acceptable?

Rachel Maddow spoke to Dr. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist who was there during the Exxon Valdez and saw this same thing happening to the people from Alaska who were exposed to the toxic fumes.

Riki Ott also expressed her views on the Environmental Forum/Reuters in an article titled:
"Lessons from the Exxon Valdez"
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.

Riki Ott: Lessons From The Exxon Valdez

So we know that Oil is considered a "hazardous material", even based on OSHA standards.  What about the chemical dispersant that is being use by the hundreds of thousands of gallons?  What do we know about that?

Thanks to some fine work by the team at Palingates who did some digging We have a lot of information on the chemical dispersant's being used and none of it is good.

One of the dispersants being used is Corexit 9500, also called Corexit EC9500A.

"Themoneytimes" reports:

At present BP is using Corexit 9500. which features high in terms of toxicity and low in terms of efficacy in comparison to 18 other EPA-approved dispersants.

"Based on the information that is available today, BP continues to believe that Corexit was the best and most appropriate choice at the time when the incident occurred, and that Corexit remains the best option for subsea application," BP said.
The EPA, had, in a directive issued Thursday, ordered BP to find a less toxic but equally effective chemical than Corexit 9500.

The instructions also demanded that the replacement should be effected within 72 hours.

The availability of this substitute had to be abundant given the enormous need.
Another dispersant used is Corexit 9527 (also called Corexit EC9527A).

The New Jersey Department of Health published a fact sheet about 2-Butoxy-Ethanol (PDF).

Under "Health Hazard Information", the department notes:
"Acute Health Effects

The following acute (short-term) health effects may occur
immediately or shortly after exposure to 2-Butoxy Ethanol:

􀁦 Contact can irritate the skin and eyes with possible eye
􀁦 Inhaling 2-Butoxy Ethanol can irritate the nose and throat
causing coughing and wheezing.
􀁦 2-Butoxy Ethanol can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
and abdominal pain.
􀁦 Exposure can cause headache, dizziness, confusion,
lightheadedness, and passing out.
Chronic Health Effects

The following chronic (long-term) health effects can occur at
some time after exposure to 2-Butoxy Ethanol and can last
for months or years:

Cancer Hazard
􀁦 2-Butoxy Ethanol may be a CARCINOGEN in humans
since it has been shown to cause liver cancer in animals.
􀁦 Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to
a carcinogen."
Scientists believe that the use of these dispersants will lead to a horrible environmental disaster - the UK Independant reports:

"It's the biggest environmental disaster of our time and it's not even over yet," said the marine toxicologist Dr Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute based in Maine. She has been diving among the damage and is horrified by the contamination caused by BP's continued use of dispersants. "They've been used at such a high volume that it's unprecedented. The worst of these – Corexit 9527 – is the one they've been using most. That ruptures red blood cells and causes fish to bleed. With 800,000 gallons of this, we can only imagine the death that will be caused."

According to Dr Shaw, plankton and smaller shrimps coated in these toxic chemicals will be eaten by larger fish, passing the deadly mix up the food chain. "This is dismantling the food web, piece by piece," she said. 
"We'll see dead bodies soon. Sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, whales: the impact on predators will be seen in a short time because the food web will be impacted from the bottom up."

The largest of the clouds, confirmed by a University of South Florida research ship last week, has gone deeper than the spill itself, defying BP's assurances that all oil would rise to the surface. It is now headed north-east of the rig, towards the DeSoto Canyon. This underwater trench could channel the noxious soup along the Florida coast, impacting on fisheries and coating 100-year-old coral forests. Tests on the toxicity of another chemical cloud, some 10 miles long and heading south-west of the site, are also being done by scientists from the University of Georgia.
Marine biologists say the timing of this underwater contamination could not be more catastrophic. "This is when all the animals are reproducing and hatching, so the damage at this depth will be much worse," said Dr Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Texas. "We're not talking about adults on the surface; it will impact on the young – and potentially a generational life cycle."
According to ProPublica, during the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, an earlier version of Corexit lead to severe problems amongst clean-up workers:

According to a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, the dispersants and the oil they leave behind can kill fish eggs. A study of oil dispersal in Coos Bay, Ore. found that PAH accumulated in mussels, the Academy’s paper noted. Another study examining fish health after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 found that PAHs affected the developing hearts of Pacific herring and pink salmon embryos. The research suggests the dispersal of the oil that’s leaking in the Gulf could affect the seafood industry there.

“One of the most difficult decisions that oil spill responders and natural resource managers face during a spill is evaluating the trade-offs associated with dispersant use,” said the Academy report, titled Oil Spill Dispersants, Efficacy and Effects. “There is insufficient understanding of the fate of dispersed oil in aquatic ecosystems.”
A version of Corexit was widely used after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and, according to a literature review performed by the group the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, was later linked with health impacts in people including respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders. But the Academy report makes clear that the dispersants used today are less toxic than those used a decade ago.

“There is a certain amount of toxicity,” said Robin Rorick, director of marine and security operations at the American Petroleum Institute. “We view dispersant use as a tool in a toolbox. It’s a function of conducting a net environmental benefit analysis and determining the best bang for your buck.”

However, can we really trust what the producers of Corexit tell us?

The US-company Nalco with offices in Illinois and Texas has already made huge profits with the product through the Gulf spill. Two weeks ago Nalco announced that they already sold dispersants worth $ 40 million through the sale of the dispersants for the Gulf spill.

On their website they are not shy to report about the use of their valuable product in the Gulf of Mexico in detail. Look what they have to say:

"Data published by Environment Canada, that country’s main environmental agency, showed common household dish soap as having a substantially higher rainbow trout toxicity than COREXIT 9500. Put another way, COREXIT 9500 is the more than 27 times safer than dish soap."

You really would need to be brain-amputed to believe this spin.

They also found an excellent video which is a documentary about the hazards that clean-up workers face in an oil spill disaster - with the Exxon Valdez oil spill as an example, which you can view at their site (I've linked in a couple of places so that it takes you there).

So we know that reports are everywhere about the dangers of inhaling toxic fumes.  Oil is considered a hazardous substance by OSHA who has rules regarding the PPE (personal protection equipment) one needs to have when dealing with  hazardous substances (which I detailed in an earlier post), and we see from all indications that the dispersant being used by BP on this gargantuan oil spill is toxic and there is a history of the use of this stuff causing the exact same symptoms in people during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and yet with all that, we still have not only BP but the Coast Guard & OSHA telling these clean up crews that they are not in danger and that they don't need respirator's?

We know why they are doing this.  PR.  That is it plain & simple.  It looks bad to everyone to have the workers walking around in respirators.  People might think that this is more serious than it is and we just can't have that now can we?  Much like the ban on photographing animals washing up dead and covered in oil, or the refusal to allow reporters to onto the beaches without a BP or Coast Guard Representative with them, or the refusal to allow people to fly over the Gulf below a certain level and never without one of the previously mentioned rep's, this is all done to control the message that is getting out to the general public to put a better face on this catastrophic disaster.   This should NEVER be acceptable to the public.  NEVER!

This is absolutely unacceptable.  We are treating our own people like they are worthless, like their health and well being is worthless.  This is showing that their future means nothing to those who are supposed to be doing everything to protect them from harm.   Sure, I can understand that BP could care less about them.  Look at what they are doing to our Gulf.  Look at their history of safety violations.  They are a corporation like many others who put their bottom line and profit above anything else.  That is how they got to be one of the most profitable companies, but we should expect better from the Coast Guard and OSHA, and our representatives, our elected officials.
No expense should be spared to ensure that these people are being taken care of properly while they are out cleaning up the DISASTER that BP created.   There is no such thing as overkill in this instance.  Why would you not do everything in your power to ensure that their health and welfare was protected in light of the situation, the work they are doing and the circumstances we find ourselves in because of a multinational company who makes BILLIONS of dollars every year?  Isn't it enough that BP has ruined their lives by taking away their livelihood, their way of life, the environment they rely on to make a living, must BP demand their health be another casualty of this disaster too?

Haven't these people suffered enough?

Tony Hayward said he wanted his life back, well so do these people and they aren't asking for much at all.  They deserve better then what they are being given.  Much Much Better!


  1. Oh God, this is absolutely terrible Eye. I'm sitting here this morning in shock - and after reading this, I'M PISSED.
    Why more Americans aren't outraged, is beyond belief.
    I'm off to spread this post around. Have a great Sunday you wonderful lady!! You've outdone yourself these past weeks. Rest is good for the soul.


  2. Comment at I didn't know. Maybe you do Eye. Gonna be a busy day at HP. I'll be there all day...

    A few gems decorating BPs indifferent history:

    1. 1993–1995: Hazardous substance dumping

    2. 2005: Texas City Refinery explosion

    3. 2006–2007: Prudhoe Bay

    4. 2006-2008: Texas City refinery fatalities

    5. 2007: Propane price manipulation

    6. 2008: Oil price manipulation

    7. 2009: North Sea helicopter accident

    8. 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    And then there are the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the Colombian pipeline, Cherry Point, the Mist mountain project, and the Canadian oil sands controversies. Some also say they had majority fault in the exxon-valdez disaster.

  3. A new link to me...maybe you too

  4. There is a stunning lack of concern regarding safety with BP. Their history is rife with problems of this nature, but do to the way businesses are handled, they are merely given a slap on the wrist, a fine (which they can easily pay) and they are then free to continue on.

    It is disturbing.

    Thanks for the Daily link I do have it listed in my files (somewhere) but I had not looked at the site in a bit. There seems to be so much information coming out that it is hard to keep up with it all. Thank you again for reminding me of it as I like to revisit sites to see others opinions and discussions.

  5. A Heads Up Eye

    Toxic rain from oil spill could destroy the eastern half of North America.

  6. BP= Pure Evil

  7. The crude oil is toxic!! Workers cleaning the oily Gulf beaches need to know the danger. Don't become BP's Collateral Damaged, like Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.

    My name is Merle Savage, a female general foreman during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) beach cleanup in 1989. I am one of the 11,000+ cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS), who is suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup, without compensation from Exxon.

    Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches. She also informed me that Exxon's medical records and the reports that surfaced in litigation by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions.

    Exxon developed the toxic spraying; OSHA, the Coast Guard, and the state of Alaska authorized the procedure. Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air -- the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions and central nervous system problems, neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease.

    My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. There is an on going Longshoreman’s claim for workers with medical problems from the oil cleanup. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many -- and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.

  8. MsSavage, I'm glad you posted this. I've taken the liberty of posting it in part at Huffington Post at this link.

    Hopefully those who are working/cleaning up down there will visit your site.
    Thank you.

  9. Merle,
    I am so sorry for the damage to your health. Thank you for the information you shared with us.
    I have been paying close attention to what Riki Ott has been saying and I can only hope that she makes a difference in getting the word out to those who can ensure that the workers who are being put at risk will get properly taken care of and get the PPE that they need to ensure that their exposure to the chemicals is limited to what they have already had to endure.

    I know it is too late to help you with that but I do thank you for trying to make a difference for others as well.