Nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds, headaches, and chest pain: these are just some of the identical symptoms reported by people working around BP’s oil in the Gulf Coast. More than 100 people in the Gulf have fallen ill from BP’s oil, and that doesn’t include untold numbers of workers hiding their symptoms for fear of being fired by BP.
Yet despite clear evidence of illness from exposure to oil and dispersants, BP refuses to provide respirators to people cleaning up its disaster. Why? Because BP is afraid of the PR impact from images of people wearing this critical safety equipment in pictures and on TV. BP even threatened to fire workers who choose to wear their own.
Firedoglake is joining with workers’ rights advocacy group American Rights at Work to petition BP – and government agencies like OSHA and the Department of Labor – to make BP provide respirators to protect cleanup workers in the Gulf of Mexico.
When we launched this petition to our email activists and posted it to Twitter this morning, we got a response from BP within minutes. Here’s what BP said in response to our action:
100 hygienists & technicians monitor exposure levels; all results to date within safe limits. More:http://bit.ly/daJBxh
Here’s the problem with that: exposure levels are inadequate to determine the array of exposures workers will encounter. And while most monitoring stations are inland, most workers are getting sick offshore, particularly on rigs. I’m sure the 100 people who are sick already will be happy to know 100 people are monitoring inadequate information.
To make matters worse, relying solely on exposure limits and not listening to workers who are clearly getting sick is exactly what happened in the cleanup effort at Ground Zero. And of the 60,000 people who helped after 9/11, more than half have respiratory problems, including some who died.
Just like after 9/11, we’re already seeing cleanup workers with serious health problems after exposure to toxic chemicals without adequate protection. If the government properly enforced its safety standards after 9/11, every person at Ground Zero would have worn a respirator that could have protected their health and saved their lives.
The government agency responsible for overseeing worker safety – the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) – says that their tests showed respirators aren’t yet required for cleanup workers in the Gulf. While OSHA is still studying the air quality in the Gulf, it should be no coincidence that dozens of people working around BP’s oil disaster are falling ill with symptoms of chemical exposure to oil.
Every worker needs access to the right respirators, training and safety equipment for protection from BP’s toxic stew in the Gulf. Join FDL and American Rights at Work to stand up for workers cleaning up BP’s toxic stew of oil and dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico and make BP pay for respirators – and the proper training to use them – immediately.