NEW STUDY: Long-Term Health Effects Could Be Grave for Cleanup Workers


We can finally stop saying we “have no idea” of the long-term health effects for cleanup workers involved in the BP spill response. A new study out of Spain, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, details findings from a 2002 spill off Spain’s northwest coast – and there are a host of disturbing concerns about the health impacts on cleanup workers.

While noting differences – for example, the BP spill is much larger and involves a different type of crude oil – the study found cleanup workers displayed “persistent respiratory symptoms, elevated markers of airway injury in breath condensate, and chromosomal damage.” Gina Solomon, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “This type of chromosomal damage has been associated with increased cancer risk and has been reported previously in other workers exposed to benzene, which is a constituent of oil.”

Ms. Solomon does offer a candid caveat: “The bottom line is that we can’t assume that all the findings of this study will necessarily apply to workers in the Gulf, but the study certainly raises serious concern about long term respiratory and cancer risks to oil spill clean-up workers, and underscores the need to protect workers, provide them with access to medical care, and follow-up their health status in the future.”

As we reported here many times when the cleanup was in full force, workers were not equipped with protective gear, such as respirators, that might have mitigated adverse health effects. Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reports that through Sept. 4 there have been 399 spill-and-dispersant related health complaints – with 313 of those associated with cleanup work. Most frequently reported symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue/weakness and upper-respiratory irritation.

Read more about this in a very calm report, given the subject, at:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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