Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Oil spill clean-up workers report feeling ‘drugged, disoriented’

Posted in corporations by allisonkilkenny on May 26, 2010

This was to be expected.

Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil.

HOPEDALE, LA - MAY 13:  Crab trap builder Shaw...

Crab trap builder Shawn Platt stands with his idle traps in on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Maybe. But these are also some of the symptoms reported by individuals who were exposed to Corexit.

One of the two Corexit products that BP is suing [sic] in the Gulf also contains a compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems

Corexit is also linked with respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.

Obviously, there’s no way to tell what is causing these symptoms, and BP has no interest in allowing the media to find out. Many of the fishermen working for BP signed contracts that forbid them to talk to the press, and BP is ruling the Gulf area with an iron fist. Even CEO Tony Hayward has joined the fun, and is shouting at random cameramen.

This is standard practice for BP, according to John Sheffield, the owner of a competing dispersant called Sea Brat 4. Stonewalling the press was a specific provision in his contract with BP.

Now is a critical time for these workers, and it’s essential the media have access to them, and the larger clean-up effort. Otherwise, there will be no way to determine what is causing their illness. Right now, there are numerous variables that could be making them sick (the oil, Corexit, listening to Tony scream at strangers, etc.) Perhaps that’s why BP wants to keep the media at a distance — so as to avoid pinning down blame on a specific agent.

The media blackout, combined with some worrying photos of clean-up crews working in regular street clothes — sometimes without gloves — and now these reports of worker sickness, should all serve as red flags.

BP has these workers locked into a world of secret pain. Initially, the company tried to trick desperate fishermen into working for them by offering work in the clean-up effort if they signed wavers saying they will

“hold harmless and indemnify … release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors … from all claims and damages” arising from helping to clean up the mess that BP has made. [emphasis mine]

Most fisherman refused to sign this, but some did because they’re desperate. Now, some of those people are sick, and they can’t share their stories without fear of legal repercussions.

Gina Solomon reports that fishermen from Alaska who were involved in the clean-up after the Exxon Valdez oil spill are coming down to the Gulf Coast to meet with local fishermen in order to offer advice and guidance. Fisherman have to take care of their own, since BP is more concerned with concealing their epic fuck-up in a media-proof cone of silence.

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