As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attack, the people who helped cleanup the devastation are only now getting the attention they needed years ago – and it took an act of Congress to make it happen.
As an attorney who’s been involved with Big Oil and worker safety for more than two decades, I’ve seen these issues many times before. I called for better protection of cleanup workers from the outset of the spill response and cautioned that we could see widespread illness if BP didn’t step up and do the right thing. Simple things like breathing protection were ignored despite clear evidence that there were dangerous toxins in the air – and our independent tests have supported that.
So it’s welcome news to hear from the Wall Street Journal and others that the federal government “…next week will launch a massive study to see whether workers who helped clean up” the spill are really getting sick. But 10 months later? Sure, better late than never, but how much suffering could we have avoided had we provided workers with timely information about possible illnesses and a plan to treat them.
Remember, the first thing BP sidestepped during the first days of the response was protection of cleanup workers. By providing workers with protection like respirators, the company would be admitting there was serious airborne danger lurking on the water. No, instead of protecting the workers, BP tried to protect itself from lawsuits, forcing new hires to sign legal waivers saying they wouldn’t sue BP if they got sick from the work. In fact, it was my law firm that got the courts to block those legal waivers – but the company still showed little concern for worker safety.
The WSJ says that “…the study was commissioned after some cleanup workers reported chest pain, headaches, breathing difficulties, and other ailments that they believed were linked to the oil spill, said Dale Sandler, Chief of the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the government office heading the study.”
The WSJ says that the study, “…funded with an initial $8 million from the government and $6 million from BP PLC, aims to follow 55,000 former cleanup workers for up to a decade. It will be the biggest study ever of an oil spill’s health effects, federal officials said.”
There is, however, already a big credibility problem. With nearly every issue since the spill, the “official” government agencies have sided with BP. How can we know this study won’t just be another example of the cozy relationship between our government and Big Oil?
The only way any government study will have credibility in the Gulf is if independent findings confirm the “official” findings.
Read the WSJ story here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703610604576158231937676742.html
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