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At What Cost? BP Spill Responders Told to Forgo Precautionary Health Measures in Cleanup

At What Cost? BP Spill Responders Told to Forgo Precautionary Health Measures in Cleanup
By Riki Ott | Huffington Post

Local fishermen hired to work on BP's uncontrolled oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico are scared and confused. Fishermen here and in other small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of Barataria Bay are getting sick from the working on the cleanup, yet BP is assuring them they don't need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

Fishermen have never seen the results from the air-quality monitoring patches some of them wear on their rain gear when they are out booming and skimming the giant oil slick. However, more and more fishermen are suffering from bad headaches, burning eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness. They are starting to suspect that BP is not telling them the truth.

And based on air monitoring conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Louisiana coastal community, those workers seem to be correct. The EPA findings show that airborne levels of toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds like benzene, for instance, now far exceed safety standards for human exposure.

For two weeks, I've been in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama sharing stories from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which devastated the community I lived and commercially fished in, with everyone from fishermen and women to local mayors to state governors and the crush of international media.

During the 1989 cleanup in Alaska, thousands of workers had what Exxon medical doctors called, "the Valdez Crud," and dismissed as simple colds and flu. Fourteen years later, I followed the trail of sick workers through the maze of court records, congressional records, obituaries, and media stories, and made hundreds of phone calls. I found a different story. As one former cleanup worker put it, "I thought I had the Valdez Crud in 1989. I didn't think I'd have it for fourteen years." Read more.

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Memories of walking down the beach leaves me with thoughts of getting oil tar between my toes, in the car, and on mom's carpet at home. This was a common occassion on the Gulf of Mexico, and now we finally see oil spilled at levels that will ensure your kids will get tar between their toes when going as a family outing to the beach.

It may not be the beach where you live, you may even live in disbelief that these oil companies are responsible and devoid of polluting other people's homes around the world, and us who enable this mentality of diseased product; soon look for tar in your home town area as sure as I am standing here.

This is your fight too, because the new rules that open up tremendously more drilling in America. The polution done by this industry, pollution around the world, leaves one with not enough ink to write it all down. There are 3, 858 oil derricks in the Gulf of Mexico (now 3,857), and just one can cause a spill bigger than Exxon Valdez.

British Petroleum also owns some of the most polluting chemical plants in the world, located along the Gulf Coast, and they are always exploding and releasing dangerous chemicals in the air; so much that the city above us is sueing us for air pollution. The pollution is distributed in a vast areas going all up through the center of the United States, and into Canada. So this is your fight too.

British Petroleum should be the canary in the coal mine, an awakening call to us all. It is best we do not allow these kind of crimes to go unpunished, and to the fullest extent of a new law stating that we care and that we are sending a punitive message to all companies out there. Capitalism is nothing if we do not have a healthy environment to which we can enjoy the products of our hard labor. If these two ideas can not be combined (like oil and vinegar), then we should look to replace our current ways of behavior.

A childhood memory of fishing on the beach has changed forever; we use to have beaches with names like "Crystal Beach", which implies that once these beaches were pristine.

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