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Maritime Workers Harmed By BP Oil Spill Toxic Fumes

*** UPDATE 09-01-2010 ***

If you have been over exposed to toxic chemicals due to oil burn off, contact your docotor...here's why...
Huffington Post : Protecting the Health of Those in the Gulf

*** UPDATE 07-21-2010 ***

"Hiring prison labor is more than a way for BP to save money while cleaning up the biggest oil spill in history....Inmates can't pick and choose their work assignments and they face considerable repercussions for rejecting any job, including loss of earned 'good time.'"
The Nation : BP Hires Prison Labor to Clean Up Spill While Coastal Residents Struggle

*** UPDATE 07-09-2010 ***

'"We cannot let the denial of protective gear that hurt so many 9/11 clean-up workers happen again with the Gulf clean-up workers..."'
The Huffington Post : Louisiana Watermen Demand Proper Safety Equipment In Gulf Oil Cleanup

*** UPDATE 06-18-2010 ***

Ken Feinberg, administrator of the BP escrow account, told Katie Couric all legitimate claims will be repaid quickly.

* * * * *

The disaster on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig has sadly claimed the lives of 11 men, as well as injured other maritime workers. The continuing oil spill is having catastrophic consequences on the environment and the economy in the Gulf coast region. If you think that those are the only consequences from the Deepwater Horizon toxic oil spill, you are wrong.

The focus has been on the oil washing up on the shoreline, but the pollution damage is also harmful to any person exposed directly or indirectly to the oil. Some of the most toxic chemicals reside in the vapors released as the oil reaches the surface of the water. The oil spill is currently endangering the lives of many people, in particular maritime workers along the coasts in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and other states. The health of seamen working from jack up rigs, jack up barges, crew boats, supply boats, work boats, tug boats, tow boats, dredges, and fishing boats in the Gulf are in danger due to conditions that include toxic fumes and vapors from the BP oil spill. Maritime workers laboring in such an unhealthy environment are at risk contracting breathing issues, respiratory ailments, and other problems caused by these airborne and surface chemical pollutants.

Petroleum contains many different chemicals which are harmful to humans. Oil is made up mostly of hydrocarbons, which can cause irritation to airways and skin. The hydrocarbons that are the most worrisome are known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs. The VOCs that pose the greatest risk to human health are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzen, and xylene. Oil is also comprised of mercury, arsenic, lead, and hydrogen sulfide. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the eyes and throat, and difficulty breathing are some of the side effects of inhaling hydrocarbons. Long time exposure to high doses of these toxic vapors through the inhalation of oil fumes or aerosolized particles in the air may even result in chemical pneumonia, also known as “hydrocarbon pneumonia.” In addition, for people who have direct skin contact with the crude oil or oil-contaminated water and sediments such as the crews of clean up workers, skin-irritation, skin rashes, and a skin condition known, as “folliculitis” where skin pores become clogged with oil are also other possible side effects.

Unfortunately, the clean up process of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is adding to potential health dangers of maritime workers in the area. One of the methods of cleaning up involves burning the oil, which releases particulate matter into the air. This particle pollution is harmful to the lungs and airways of anyone who comes in contact with it. Another concern posed by the clean up are the massive amounts of dispersant used. The purpose of the dispersant is to prevent the surface oil from reaching beaches and coating wildlife by breaking the oil into little droplets that will sink, unfortunately collecting on the seabed. The dispersant BP is using is Corexit, the name given to a group of solvents that are manufactured by the Nalco Holding Company. .

Although the EPA has approved the use of two different versions of Corexit, these solvents have never been used in such massive quantities as they are in the Gulf. Already more than 700,000 gallons have been sprayed upon the water’s surface. BP claims Corexit is safe. However, maritime workers on such vessels as crew boats, supply boats, jack up rigs, jack up barges, work boats, tug boats, tow boats, dredges, and fishing boats working in the areas where the dispersant is released from low flying airplane, are exposed to the chemicals repeatedly. And although the EPA pre-approved two versions of Corexit to use in the Gulf oil spill emergency, it is unclear what the long-term effects may be on humans and wild life. No toxicity studies have been performed on the compounds in Corexit, but an environmental group known as Protect the Ocean claims that Corexit is four times as toxic as the oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Nalco refuses to publicize the chemical ingredients of the dispersant claiming it is a trade secret. According to toxicology expert Dr. William Sawyer: “Corexit is known as deodorized kerosene which is considered to contribute to health risks for humans, as well as any species that needs to surface for air exchanges, such as sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles, and birds.” Dispersants still need to be used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup, but there are better chemical dispersants out there than Corexit.

Already Louisiana residents along the Gulf coast have been complaining about a gas station-like odor. This odor is indicative of VOCs in the air. People are experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, asthma attacks, coughing, nausea, and vomiting. On the water the fumes are even worse. BP has been hiring displaced fisherman and volunteers to help with the oil spill clean up. There are news reports of fisherman being hospitalized for severe nausea, headaches, and difficulty with breathing. These reports are only starting to surface because maritime workers newly hired by BP sign contracts that forbid them from speaking to the press. However, some maritime workers are starting to come forward. One fisherman said in an interview that he was experiencing the feeling of being drugged, tingling, disorientation, shortness of breath with coughing.

Reporters covering the Deepwater Horizon disaster have filed stories accusing BP not only of trying to keep the health hazards under wraps, but also of threatening to fire workers who show up wearing protective respirator masks. Although workers recruited for the clean-up including volunteers, fishermen and other maritime workers put out of work because of the spill receive training and wear protective gear; they have not been given respirators. Yet according to Gina Solomon, a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council Workers, maritime workers and clean up crews who are around the oil spill should wear a half-face vapor cartridge respirator, rubber boots, butyl rubber gloves, Tyvek arm protectors, and if there is a risk of contact with the skin, a Tyvek suit. For proper protection, it is better to be fit-tested for the respirator to make sure it is providing adequate protection. Wearing a paper respirator mask and thin latex gloves will not offer protection from the hazards presented by this monumental oil spill. This advice indicates the potential presence of seriously toxic chemicals.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill inevitably will negatively impact the health of many marine workers in the Gulf. If you are a maritime worker on any type of floating vessel such as work boats, tug boats, towboats, dredges, jack up rigs, jack up barges, crew boats, supply boats, and fishing boats and suffer an injury over the coarse of doing your duties on that vessel, you are protected by the Jones Act. The Jones Act only covers workers on floating vessels, not stationary rigs. For a more in depth explanation of the Jones Act go here http://jonesactquestions.com/general-description-of-jones-act.html.

If you are a maritime worker aboard a floating vessel in the Gulf of Mexico and have experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above, the Jones Act may apply to you as well, and you should seek the advice of a Maritime Admiralty Offshore Accident Lawyer. Contact us to speak with an experienced maritime accident attorney.

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