Just Like 9/11? Oil Spill Responders Are Getting Sick ... But Are Being Told They Don't Need Any Safety Gear → Washingtons Blog
Just Like 9/11? Oil Spill Responders Are Getting Sick ... But Are Being Told They Don't Need Any Safety Gear - Washingtons Blog

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just Like 9/11? Oil Spill Responders Are Getting Sick ... But Are Being Told They Don't Need Any Safety Gear

The U.S. government suppressed health information after 9/11. For example, as Newsday noted in 2003:

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the White House instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available.

That finding is included in a report released Friday by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA.

Because the government lied about the health risks involved, many heroic first responders didn't use any real precautions, and so have gotten sick and died. And see this.

The same thing appears to be happening in connection with the Gulf oil spill.

Specifically, marine toxicologist Ricki Ott writes:

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.


There is no excuse for sick people. BP and the federal agencies charged with worker safety know that the risks of working on a hazardous waste cleanup are extraordinarily high and that it will take a concerted effort to keep workers safe and healthy. Further, it will take an equally extraordinary effort by BP and the federal government to protect public health in coastal communities downwind or downstream from the toxic stew in the Gulf.

Yet I don't see either BP or the federal government taking sufficient--or any--action to prevent human tragedy in the form of acute and likely long-term illnesses from its uncontrolled leak.

Update: See also this, this, this and this.


  1. And just like 9/11, more will be killed from long term effects rather than at the time of the disaster itself....

    Rep. Nadler and Mahoney are asking Obama still to this day about the money to help out those who raced to Ground Zero and cleaned for weeks or even months....


    Never Forget? Our "leaders' never remembered.

  2. The oil industry has been covering up the fact that hydrogen sulfide (h2S) gas in a nervous system poison. The politicians have taken the money and helped with the coverup. This is serious. All fishermen should google hydrogen sulfide and the word poison to try and get the truth before it ruins their lives and that of their families.

  3. Workers don't like to wear respirators. They don't think that they are manly. I used one as a painter and was often teased. Also, they are damn uncomfortable. I'm not as sympathetic as most. I've seen men not use respirators when they were available and clearly needed. I say "screw them."

  4. You couldn't link to my 9/11 enviro archive, eh? Ya bastage. :)

  5. I'm serious about the attitude that most workers have towards respirators. In groups, they think that the person who wears one is a wimp and they harass them.

    Also, while you work in them, the rubber, mixed with your sweat, make it difficult to withstand. You have to stay focused on something besides how it feels.

    Finally, a worker can get any tool he wants. These workers in NY and now in LA can get respirators. But, no. They want to be able to talk while they work, which you can't if you are wearing a mask. They want to look tough, too.

    Yes, we are going to hear the complaints when these men come down with respiratory problems. Before you join them, remember this: their respirators probably sat inside a drawer a few feet away from them the whole time.

    I know that many 9/11 people fit into the category of people that I am describing. You can smell when the air ain't good and common sense says, "get a mask."

    They weren't stupid which leads me to one conclusion: they didn't want to suffer the consequences of being viewed as a wimp.

  6. I just read comments by TODD WOOD.
    While I am not a believer that the attack was perpetrated by "terrorists", the responders, however, were real. For TW to make the allegations he has when he was not there nor actually knew the factual circumstances is simply assanine.
    It's better to simply shut up if you haven't anything worthwhile to say.


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