Countdown: Gulf’s human health crisis explodes

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Highlights:

  • Carl Safina testified before Congress that BP’s use of dispersant (“Corexit“) is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy only; it is nothing but a PR stunt, just to get the oil away from the cameras on the shoreline.  Allowing the oil to stay un-dispersed would make cleanup easier.
  • BP Makes Me Sick is a group petitioning President Obama to force BP to provide respirators to the 47 thousand oil cleanup workers.  You can click on the link to add your signature.

Greenwire released data from BP’s testing of cleanup workers finding that 29% of offshore and 15% of onshore workers tested for twice the toxic limit for one of the constituents of Corexit: 2 Butanolethanol (which causes tumors in animals).

In an under-the-radar release of new test results for its Gulf of Mexico oil spill workers, BP PLC is reporting potentially hazardous exposures… among more than 20 percent of offshore responders. …

In a June 9 report on worker test results, BP confidently asserted that the health hazards of exposure to both dispersant chemicals and the components of leaking crude “are very low.”

In its latest summary, BP replaced those three words with an assurance that health risks “have been carefully considered in the selection of the various methods employed in addressing its spill.”

2-butoxyethanol was detected at levels up to 10 parts per million (ppm) in more than 20 percent of offshore responders and 15 percent of those near shore.

The NIOSH standard for 2-butoxyethanol, which lacks the force of law but is considered more health-protective than the higher OSHA limit, is 5 ppm. Some public-health advocates pointed out that BP references the NIOSH ceiling of each chemical it tested for except 2-butoxyethanol, an ingredient in the Corexit 9527 dispersant…

Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Gina Solomon described BP’s continued offshore 2-butoxyethanol detection during the month of June as “worrisome.”

“It suggests to me that there is still, clearly, a serious air-quality concern. … [Gulf] air quality, if anything, seems to be deteriorating,” Solomon said.

Hunter College toxicology professor Frank Mirer said it would be “implausible” that the ongoing detection of 2-butoxyethanol among workers could be attributable to only BP’s early use of Corexit 9527. …

“We had a humongous amount of data after 9/11,” [New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health industrial hygienist David Newman, who served on a U.S. EPA expert panel that evaluated lingering public health risks after the Sept. 11 attacks] said. “Most if not all of the data were reassuring. And yet harm was done.”

Catlin echoed Newman’s warning. “There are certainly some folks saying, ‘Look at all this data, everything looks good,’” he said, “but we saw that same thing on the Exxon Valdez. … The summary data BP provides is too sketchy to be able to give a clean bill of health.”

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