BP Oil Spill Clean Up Workers Report Serious Health Issues

Four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico which left 11 workers dead and spilled an estimated 210 million gallons into the Gulf, it seems that there are lingering health and safety problems that need to be addressed. There were reports that in the initial stages of the clean-up process that workers were cautioned not to wear necessary PPE to protect themselves from the toxins contained in the oil as well as the chemicals and dispersants used to clean it up because of PR concerns. A survey funded by BP oil and the US government, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is tracking the health concerns of first responders and residents who were exposed to the oils and chemicals used during the clean-up process. More than 32,000 people were included in the study and preliminary reports show that many people are suffering from skin rashes and respiratory illnesses, among other frightening symptoms as a result of chemical exposure during the clean-up. The main dispersant used during the clean up was “Corexit”. The Corexit MSDS states that Corexit contains 3 hazardous substances, 2-Butoxyethanol, Organic sulfonic acid salt, and Propylene Glycol. The Hazards Identification states that it can be an eye and skin irritant, and “repeated or excessive exposure to butoxyethanol may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver”. OSHA listed two types of oil under their “OSHA Activities During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” MSDS page: Mississippi Canyon Petroleum Crude Oil –Sweet, and Mississippi Canyon 252 Weathered Crude Oil (Louisiana Light Sweet Crude). Both MSDSs show that prolonged or repeated contact can cause eye and skin irritation. All three MSDSs (Corexit, and the 2 Mississippi Caynon oils) suggest the wearing of PPE to protect against contact with the chemicals. BP will begin paying out up to $60,000 to individuals based on their claims under a two-year-old medical settlement.