On Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported that fishermen hired to cleanup BP’s mess were coming down with nausea, severe headaches, and breathing problems after working in waters contaminated by the nation’s worst oil spill.
George Jackson, 53, has been fishing since he was 12 and took a BP cleanup job after the massive oil spill forced the closure of fisheries and left him unemployed. As he was laying containment booms Sunday, he said, a dark substance floating on the water made his eyes burn.
“I ain’t never run on anything like this,” Jackson said. Within seconds, he said, his head started hurting and he became nauseated.
Like other cleanup workers, Jackson had attended a training class where he was told not to pick up oil-related waste. But he said he wasn’t provided with protective equipment and wore leather boots and regular clothes on his boat.
“They [BP officials] told us if we ran into oil, it wasn’t supposed to bother us,” Jackson said. “As far as gloves, no, we haven’t been wearing any gloves.”
Following up on the LA Times report, Propublica noted that BP continues to use a dispersant called Corexit, which has been tied to human health problems in the past. BP continues to use Corexit despite a deadline imposed by the EPA directing the oil company to stop using it.
Ott told the Times that the illnesses for cleanup workers were “déjà vu … What we saw with Exxon Valdez was a parallel track — sick animals and sick people. Harbor seals were looking like they were drunk and dying … and autopsies showed brain lesions….What are we exposing these poor fishermen to?”