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Benzene from Gulf Oil Spill a Concern for Cleanup Workers and Residents


The massive oil spill created by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion left BP with a big mess to clean up.  BP chose to use dispersants as one cleanup meausre.  BP’s dispersant of choice, Corexit, an extremely toxic chemical dispersant and while it has its dangers, BP chose it some say because it is simply cheaper.  It is estimated that more than 870,000 gallons of Corexit has been used so far in the Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup, either sprayed on the surface or released underwater.  Corexit has been banned in Europe.  When you pour more around a million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants on top of an oil spill, it can and will move upwards into the atmosphere.

Several oil spill cleanup workers have been hospitalized after complaints of headache, dizziness, breathing problems and nausea.  Cleanup workers have told the doctors chemical dispersant used to break up oil had made them sick.  Toxic exposure along with dehydration from working in the heat have led to many crewmember complaints. Manufactured by Nalco Energy Services L.P., the Material Safety Data Sheets state that Corexit 9500 cause irritation when in contact with skin, chemical pneumonia if ingested and irritation to the respiratory tract with repeated and prolonged inhalation.

Those working on cleaning up the oily Gulf of Mexico as well as coastal communities and those a bit inland should be concerned about benzene exposure.  BP has conducted tests on oil spill cleanup workers which reveal that those workers have already been exposed to benzene.  In addition, BP is doing far less testing of the environment surrounding its cleanup efforts than some would like.

BP claims the risks associated with cleanup worker exposure to the oil itself, the oil BP is burning and the dispersant chemicals is very low.  At this point, should we trust anything they say?  If the benzene rain moves inland, you will notice after a rain shower that the roads are slicker, rain water may be contaminated, foliage appears waxy, white surfaces look stained, crops and plants wither unexpectedly.

A relatively unmentioned concern is benzene in the air.  Locals and media on site have noticed the smell of oil in the air over the Gulf.  This means that benzene exposure may wind up being farther spread than originally contemplated.  As the water in the Gulf heats up in the summertime, Corexit will change from liquid to gas and be absorbed into the clouds to be released later as toxic rain.  This toxic rain will fall on crops, into lakes, land on animals like livestock and of course affect people.

If you are an oil spill worker and feel you have been exposed to toxic substances, please contact BENZENE ATTORNEY today by emailing benzene@smslegal.com.

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