BP controls access to medical care for Gulf Oil clean-up workers.

Everything they are doing is lining up their Defense to deny medical claims

Gulf Oil Hot Zone at Veterans Today

GRAND ISLE, LA) – Thousands of unemployed workers hired by BP for Gulf oil clean-up duties are housed in a tent city on Grand Isle, LA.

According to a report from Anna Hrybyk, Program Manager for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a nonprofit environmental health and justice organization, BP requires that all serious medical issues must be sent to the BP EMS.

A West Jefferson Medical Center tent is staffed with qualified physicians and nurses but is restricted by BP to give out ibuprofen and band-aids only.

Anna Hrybyk reported that,” BP does not allow the medical center to keep on hand any antibiotics, antibiotic ointments, IVs, shots, or make any prescriptions even though they have that capability.  The nurse on site was extremely upset by these constraints and worried that if these infections are left untreated that staff infections could easily develop. New reports from the WJMC’s tent say that the number of oil spill workers being treated for heat-related illnesses is on the rise; to date there have been 67 workers treated since May 31st.medical center to keep on hand any antibiotics, antibiotic ointments, IVs, shots, or make any prescriptions even though they have that capability.  The nurse on site was extremely upset by these constraints and worried that if these infections are left untreated that staff infections could easily develop.”

A copy of Anna Hrybyk report follows:

From the Hot Zone

June 10, 2010

From Louisianna’s Bucket Brigade

“We were in the hot zone all day today and the fumes were really strong.  Now I have a terrible headache,” said an oil spill clean up worker who came to the West Jefferson Medical Center tent inside the BP worker compound in Grand Isle looking for some relief from his headaches. His headache is not unusual according to a new report from the Office of Public Health and reports to LABB’s Oil Spill Crisis Map.  His headache is undoubtedly caused by working in the “hot zone,” a term used by workers for the areas of thick heavy oil.

The Louisiana State Office of Public Health released data yesterday from their Oil Spill Health Surveillance program tracking all acute health effects related to the BP Oil Drilling Disaster.  The report found here relies on reports from hospital emergency departments, outpatient clinics, physician’s offices and the Louisiana Poison Control Center.  From May 30 to June 5, 2010, 71 reports of health complaints related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill received.  Fifty reports came from among workers and 21 from the general population.

Sixty percent of the health complaints from workers stated that they were exposed to chemical dispersants.  Seven of those reports came from workers busting oil sheen for two weeks.  They stated that they were exposed to fumes from chemical dispersants causing nausea, headaches, burning throat and chest pains.  Six out of the seven were hospitalized and an investigation from OPH is pending.

Out of the 71 reports of oil spill related illnesses, 79% of the reported health problems were related to irritation of the respiratory tract including nosebleeds, difficulty breathing and aggravation of existing asthma and respiratory illnesses.  There were 26 reports of headaches related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill.

From June 1st through June 3rd, 17 workers sought treatment at the West Jefferson medical center tent in Grand Isle for headaches, respiratory issues, insect bites, abrasions, and infections.  Unfortunately, BP does not allow the medical center to keep on hand any antibiotics, antibiotic ointments, IVs, shots, or make any prescriptions even though they have that capability.  The nurse on site was extremely upset by these constraints and worried that if these infections are left untreated that staff infections could easily develop. New reports from the WJMC’s tent say that the number of oil spill workers being treated for heat-related illnesses is on the rise; to date there have been 67 workers treated since May 31st.

Though the West Jefferson Medical Center’s medical treatment tent is a full service medical facility (they could perform surgeries if needed), all serious health issues must be sent to the BP EMS.  The WJMC can only give out ibuprofen and band-aids.  The WJMC has an Industrial Medicine doctor but he has not been “approved” to staff the site.

So if BP is calling the shots on treatment of exposed workers, will it surprise you to know that the only “official” worker exposure monitoring data that exists is on the BP page?  According to BP’s industrial hygiene monitoring program, 21 workers have been exposed to benzene, 305 workers have been exposed to hydrocarbons, and 43 workers have been exposed to butoxethanol.  Of course, they contend that the exposure levels to these hazardous cancer-causing toxins has been below OSHA safe standards.  BP’s monitoring plan is frighteningly vague.  We know they are monitoring workers in three areas:  beach clean up, near shore skimming and booming operations, and offshore.  We do not know exact coordinates of these sites or the toxic makeup of the oil they are handling.

OSHA only has jurisdiction over workers on shore to three miles out from the shore.    All of the workers we encountered in Grand Isle were in Tyvek protective suits but were NOT wearing respirators or gloves.  Last week, grassroots groups, including the LABB, from across the Gulf Coast have signed on to a letter requesting the Department of Labor and OSHA to require the use of respirators and to make information on worker health problems publicly available.

LABB’s Oil Spill Crisis Map has been tracking odor complaints and health effects related to the BP Oil disaster since May 1st, 2010.  To date the map has received 203 odor reports (i.e., smells like kerosene, burning crayons, burning oil) and 69 health effects reports from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  Thirty-eight people have reported headaches and 43 reports detailed experiences of lung tightness, nose and throat irritation as a result of exposure.  Other exposure related symptoms reported on the map include nosebleeds, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, chest pains, and burning eyes.

The highest number of odor reports on the map come from the metro New Orleans area.  On May 10, 2010, on a very bad petroleum smelling air day, we took a bucket air sample from the front steps of the LA Bucket Brigade office on Canal Street.  The sample showed detectable, but low levels of n-Hexane and n-Heptane.  Due to our lax policies around chemical safety in this country, not much is known about the long-term effects of exposure to these toxins, however it is known, according to ATSDR that both are neurotoxins that can cause serious damage to the upper respiratory tract if chronically exposed.

I have heard Coast Guard and LDEQ officials compare the risk of exposure as equivalent to what you experience while you are pumping gas at the gas station.  Would you want your children playing at the gas station all day in a heat index ranging from 105 and 110 degrees?

More detailed and transparent monitoring of the air, water and personal exposure is needed.  We here at the Bucket Brigade know from years of working with communities neighboring hazardous sites, the oil industry and their regulators that the most effective tool in catching “hot spot” samples is empowering residents to capture the sample themselves with the bucket.  No other monitoring system will be effective because by the time the samplers have been called in, the wind direction has changed and you can no longer get a good sample of the worst of what people are being exposed to.  We are working to get the buckets in the hands of trained residents throughout the Gulf Coast.

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About defensebaseactcomp

Injured Contractors and Family members of those killed fighting for the benefits denied by insurance companies AIG, CNA, ACE their attorneys and the US Department of Labor
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10 Responses to BP controls access to medical care for Gulf Oil clean-up workers.

  1. several times in the paragraphs the writer quotes the nurse as complaining of “possible Staff” infections. I suppose the writer means “staph” infections. Or, am I to presume that the medical team is coming down with infections related to exposure to victims of the clean-up work details.

  2. woodbutcher says:

    It is time for the CDC to take a trip down to Grande Isle and take a peek insinde these medical tents and have a few discussions with the nurses on staff they cant be bought off as easily as the doctors can after all the docs have been used to pay offs from pharma co’s for yrs now and can no longer be trusted

  3. richard says:

    what am I missing here?,by WHAT authority does BP have to dictate what care is given,or what animals to be saved,,or how is it they can restrict journalists and photographers?

  4. dude1 says:

    This is unprecedented. Can anyone recall a time where a foreign (or domestic for that matter) business trumped an entire countrys’ democratically elected government? What is a President for? a Congress, the EPA, CDC, etc.? Where the hell is OSHA for goodness sake? So what if BP is owned by elite European powers and large central banks? The way this situation is being handled only supports some of the insane conspiracy theories I have read over the net. I didn’t realize that my government has the power to use the taxpayers military to illegally invade a country like Iraq, but has absolutely no power to stop a business (sans military power) from invading its own shores! Obama + Congress = useless, corporations rule, we all get to have cake. Is that it? Just to be fair, all mainstream media politicians; Bush, Clinton, Gore, Obama, all of them are just puppets of the central banks. That is all I can get out of this folks. We are screwed. We don’t count. Screw our wetlands, our beaches and our health. The chips are down, and the buck does not stop at the White House. We are owned.

    Well we sure got change didn’t we! He never claimed it would be positive change, he just implied that! Humans are like cancer to the Earth. Our greed and disrespect for our own planet will be our undoing. Short term profits trump long term thinking, it’s no wonder we are in this mess.

  5. JT M.D. says:

    This article declares that the doctors are qualified, but their ethics stink. No oil company can control how medicine is practiced. If proper care is not provided at their camp clinic, the physicians have a legal and ethical obligation to send patients to a facility that can provide appropriate treatment. To do anything less is negligence, and walk the fine line of criminal disregard. As with everything in this world, it’s always about money.

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