Health Risks for Oil Spill Clean-Up Workers

In the event of a national emergency or catastrophe, crews may be sent from around the region or the world to help with clean-up and restoration. A recent report indicates that workers who tended to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have suffered a high-risk exposure that has increased their risk of liver cancer, leukemia and other terminal conditions.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine, there are dangerous health repercussions for the workers involved in the clean-up after the Gulf oil spill. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in handling claims on behalf of injured workers and their families. We are vested in helping workers collect the compensation they are entitled to after a work-related accident or when diagnosed with an occupationally related disease.

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After the BP oil spill, chemicals were used to break up the crude oil which have proven to be hazardous to workers. There are now more than 170,000 people who worked on clean-up and could suffer from toxic exposure. In addition to the chemical dispersants, workers were also exposed to benzene, contained in the oil, which is a high-risk carcinogen.

Workers on the site were given protective gear, including suits and gloves. According to the researchers, many workers removed their protective gear because of extremely high temperatures. Exposure to the oil and other toxic chemicals at site clean-up areas has proven to be extremely dangerous. Benzene can be absorbed through the skin and enter the blood stream, having an immediate and long-term deleterious impact on organs. Traveling through the blood stream, the chemicals can also enter bone marrow which can impact blood cells. The liver can also suffer because of its role in filtering the toxins.

The study tracked symptoms reported by the oil spill workers from 2010 through 2012. Some of these symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, skin rash, cough, and other blood disorders.

Doctors have found that workers involved in the oil clean-up had decreased levels of blood-clotting platelets and lowered level of kidney health. Workers also suffered from conditions involving liver damage and dysfunction. In addition to liver damage and blood conditions, these workers are also at a higher risk of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Liver damage also increases the potential risk of pancreatic and gallbladder cancer.

According to the researchers, there have not been significant or long-term studies in the United States on the impact of benzene exposure after an oil spill. Workers who suffered any injury or who have been diagnosed with a disease since the spill may be entitled to significant compensation. Under the BP settlement, workers are entitled to medical payments if they can prove that the injuries were related to clean-up work. In addition to recovery from the BP settlement, workers may also be able to collect workers’ compensation and could explore third-party claims against any additional defendants.

Though BP asserts that the workers had proper protective gear that would have insulated workers from exposure, additional research suggests that the risk depends on the type of exposure. Oil in the water near a spill site is higher risk than, for example, tar balls that have washed ashore, which mostly contain sand.

If you have suffered a work injury, contact the Lee Law Offices at 1-800-887-1965 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your right to benefi

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New Legislation Aims to Bolster OSHA Role in Worker Safety, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 25, 2013

National Emphasis Program Working to Protect Workers in Nursing and Residential Care Facilities, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, June 17, 2012

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