Health and Environmental Problems After the BP Oil Spill (updated 2023)
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred on April 20, 2010, is still haunting the lives of thousands of individuals involved in the cleanup efforts. Thirteen years later, the aftermath of the largest oil spill in US waters is marked by chronic health issues, lawsuits, and a battle for justice. At Josh and Mak International, we shed light on the health and environmental problems faced by cleanup workers and coastal residents after the BP oil spill, and the challenges they encounter in seeking compensation for their suffering.
Health Crisis Among Cleanup Workers:
Thousands of cleanup workers, driven by the love for their beloved coastlines, rushed to combat the toxic oil spilled by BP’s rig in the Gulf of Mexico. These brave individuals exhibited valor comparable to the heroism of 9/11 first responders. However, their sacrifices have not been recognized adequately, and many of them have since experienced chronic respiratory issues, rashes, diarrhea, and even cancer. This cluster of health problems is known as “BP syndrome” or “Gulf coast syndrome,” affecting those who laid their bodies on the line following this industrial catastrophe.
Lingering Health Issues and Legal Battles:
The cleanup workers’ health issues have been linked to their exposure to toxins in the spilled oil and Corexit, a chemical used to break up oil slicks. Despite the alarming health risks, BP allegedly told workers that they did not need breathing protection. In the aftermath of the spill, the company launched a PR campaign to assure the public of the Gulf’s recovery while secretly building its legal defense against the very workers suffering from health problems.
Challenges in Seeking Compensation:
Cleanup workers and coastal residents suffering from long-term health damages face an uphill battle in seeking compensation. There is no class-action settlement for these victims, forcing them to sue BP individually to be compensated for their chronic injuries. Moreover, many of these cases are under a court order that prevents them from seeking punitive damages. BP has taken a “scorched-earth” approach to each lawsuit, hiring experts and combing through plaintiffs’ records to fight these cases to the end.
The aftermath of the BP oil spill remains a poignant reminder of the risks faced by those who courageously clean up environmental disasters. While BP has resolved economic and natural resources claims, the long-term health problems of cleanup workers have not been adequately addressed.
The Ongoing Struggle: Health Impacts of the BP Oil Spill
Thirteen years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the health and environmental problems it caused continue to haunt the lives of those involved in the cleanup efforts. Despite research linking exposure to the spill with severe health issues, BP has adamantly denied responsibility, leaving thousands of affected workers and coastal residents in a legal battle for justice. At Josh and Mak International, we bring attention to the gut-wrenching public health disaster that cleanup workers face, advocating for their rights and seeking compensation for their suffering.
BP’s Legal Tactics: Denying Biological Evidence:
In court, BP has employed a defense strategy, arguing that without biological evidence, the illnesses cannot be conclusively linked to the oil spill. However, research has shown a clear connection between exposure to the spill and increased risks of cancer, long-term respiratory conditions, heart disease, headaches, memory loss, and blurred vision. Despite this evidence, thousands of cases have been dismissed, with only one known case resulting in a settlement. The company’s indifference to the suffering of cleanup workers is disheartening.
Analyzing Lawsuits: Chronic Health Problems and Cancer:
To understand the full scope of the illnesses related to the oil spill, one can get vital information from the lawsuits against BP. Sinus issues emerged as the most common chronic health problem among plaintiffs, followed by eye, skin, and respiratory ailments. Chronic rhinosinusitis, a swelling of the sinuses causing nasal drip and facial pain, was the most prevalent condition. Some plaintiffs have cancer, but public health advocates believe more cases may arise in the future.
Continuing Health Concerns:
Cleanup work during the spill was filthy and dangerous. The lingering stench of burning oil, extreme humidity, and searing temperatures left workers exhausted, sweaty, and dehydrated. The long-term health implications of this exposure are becoming increasingly evident, with more individuals potentially facing oil spill-related cancers in the years to come.
Thirteen years after the BP oil spill, the health consequences for cleanup workers and coastal residents remain severe and troubling. Despite the evidence linking the spill to chronic illnesses and cancer, BP continues to evade accountability.
BP’s Negligence in Collecting Exposure Data:
Attorney Jerry Sprague filed a motion accusing BP of failing to collect and preserve data on cleanup worker exposure levels to assist in future litigation. Emails uncovered during discovery revealed that federal entities recommended biomonitoring of cleanup workers to measure chemical exposure levels accurately. However, BP chose to spend over $13 million monitoring air instead, leaving the workers’ total exposure unaccounted for. The company’s decision not to incorporate biomonitoring raises concerns about their commitment to determining the health effects of toxic exposure on workers.
CTEH’s Controversial Role:
BP hired the consulting firm CTEH to conduct air monitoring during the cleanup efforts. However, CTEH has a history of downplaying risks associated with pollution events, leading to skepticism about their findings. CTEH’s involvement in other environmental disasters, like the Murphy Oil spill in Louisiana and the train derailment in Ohio, has raised further doubts about their credibility. The discovery of emails among BP’s internal medical team revealed that air monitoring efforts were primarily aimed at defending against future litigation rather than identifying dangers in the air.
BP’s negligence in collecting exposure data and downplaying risks has only added to the pain and frustration of those affected.
Insufficient Training and Lack of Protective Gear for Cleanup Workers
Newly released BP training modules obtained in discovery by the Downs Law Group have shed light on the inadequate preparation and briefing given to cleanup workers regarding the toxic risks associated with their job. The training modules focused on minor hazards such as heat exhaustion, insects, and trip hazards, downplaying the health risks of exposure to dispersants and weathered oil. Cleanup workers were assured that dispersants used in the Gulf had no ingredients causing long-term health effects, including cancer, despite contrary evidence.
In one module for shoreline workers, it was stated that they would not need protective breathing gear as they would only be exposed to less hazardous weathered oil, which BP’s internal safety documents contradicted, warning about potential skin and eye irritation and diarrhea from contact with weathered oil. The lack of protective clothing was also highlighted, with workers reporting receiving little to no gear like boots, gloves, or Tyvek suits when beginning their cleanup work.
The Toll on Cleanup Workers: Health Impacts and Dismissed Lawsuits
Cleanup workers experienced severe health consequences after being exposed to the toxic substances during the cleanup efforts. Despite their pleas for protective gear, they received little training and suffered from symptoms like nausea, headaches, and diarrhea. Some workers were hospitalized, lost over half his body weight, and experienced anxiety and depression in the aftermath of the spill. Many lawsuits for long-term medical damages was dismissed, leaving him feeling robbed of his health and life.
Other cleanup workers faced similar challenges, and thousands of cases have been dismissed, leaving only one known case that resulted in a settlement. BP’s aggressive PR campaign during the aftermath of the spill boasted about the environmental response and the involvement of local cleanup workers. However, the reality of the insufficient training and lack of protective gear has left many workers suffering without adequate compensation or support.
Long Road to Justice
The documents revealing the inadequate training and protection provided to cleanup workers paint a disturbing picture of BP’s response to the health risks faced by those who selflessly worked to mitigate the environmental disaster. As more evidence surfaces, the toll on these workers becomes clearer, emphasizing the need for accountability and justice.
BP’s Attempts to Control the Narrative and Influence Scientific Research
Chemist Wilma Subra, a Louisiana expert who understood the potential public health disaster posed by the BP spill, advocated for better protective equipment for cleanup workers during the response. However, BP signed agreements with numerous technical experts to control the public narrative and downplay the negative impacts of the spill.
BP also had a role in reviewing and influencing certain scientific research about the spill’s impacts. The Downs Law Group discovered an internal BP spreadsheet that appears to track the company’s review process for 29 scientific studies on various topics related to the spill. The spreadsheet indicates BP’s steps in the approval process, including sending studies to authors for changes and performing a final legal/BP review. Some studies listed in the tracker were published without disclosing BP’s involvement in providing comments and suggested revisions, raising concerns about the company’s influence on the science.
Emerging Health Studies Linking BP Spill to Health Problems
While BP attempted to control the narrative and influence research, other studies published in recent years have linked exposure to the 2010 BP spill with various health problems. These health studies build upon research from other oil spills, such as the Prestige oil tanker spill off the coast of Spain in 2002 and the Hebei Spirit oil tanker spill in South Korean waters in 2007.
Researchers have found associations between the BP spill and health issues such as heart conditions, neurological symptoms, and an increased rate of premature and underweight births. The health effects research on the Hebei Spirit Oil Spill was given the acronym “Heros” to recognize the heroic efforts of cleanup workers who fought to protect the coastline. However, the BP oil spill cleanup workers themselves have not been memorialized, leaving them feeling victimized twice by the lack of recognition and support.
Seeking Truth and Justice
The emerging evidence of BP’s attempts to control the narrative and influence scientific research is deeply concerning. Cleanup workers, who displayed immense courage and dedication in responding to the disaster, were not adequately protected and are now facing serious health consequences. As health studies continue to link the spill to various health problems, the need for accountability and justice becomes even more apparent.
The stories circulating in the media about individuals affected by the BP oil spill paint a distressing picture of the health consequences and challenges faced by cleanup workers and coastal residents. Despite the mounting evidence linking the spill to various health issues, BP has taken a defensive stance, challenging the claims of those seeking justice and compensation.
The lack of protective measures and inadequate training provided to cleanup workers during the spill response is deeply concerning. The attempts by BP to control the narrative and influence scientific research on the spill’s impacts raise serious ethical questions about corporate responsibility and transparency.
Furthermore, the failure of regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact sufficient policy changes to protect future cleanup workers and address the risks of chemical dispersants is worrisome. The ongoing battles for justice and recognition faced by those affected by the spill highlight the need for comprehensive and proactive measures to prevent similar disasters in the future.
As the Biden administration moves forward with energy projects, it must prioritize the health and safety of workers and coastal communities. Environmental organizations and advocacy groups continue to fight for stricter regulations and accountability in the oil industry, urging the government to learn from past mistakes and prioritize human health and environmental protection over corporate interests.
The stories of those impacted by the BP oil spill serve as a poignant reminder that the consequences of such disasters extend far beyond the immediate cleanup efforts. They reveal the urgency to create robust safeguards and policies to protect both human health and the environment, ensuring that those who risk their lives and livelihoods during emergencies are adequately protected and supported.
A note on the Original Article from (2013)
The original article from 2013 highlights the ongoing environmental and ecological impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While some signs of healing are observed, there are indications of damage to various ecosystems, including deep-water coral reefs, mangroves, dolphins, and fish species. The spill had a devastating impact on wildlife, with thousands of birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals found injured or dead in the months following the incident.
The long-term effects of the oil and its dispersants on the Gulf’s ecosystem remain uncertain, and there are concerns about imbalanced food chains, reduced fish and wildlife populations, and potential declines in recreational activities. The spill also affected the economies of the Gulf Coast, making restoration efforts crucial to protect the region’s future.
At the time of the article, there was uncertainty about how the US federal government would handle future damages and compensation plans related to the spill. The author suggests that this environmental disaster might pave the way for new trends in holding multinational corporations accountable for environmental hazards and the potential for compensation for affected communities.
It is essential to recognize that this article was written in 2013, and developments and responses may have occurred since then. The BP oil spill remains a significant environmental disaster, and ongoing efforts to assess its long-term impacts, restore affected ecosystems, and address the economic and social consequences continue to be crucial.