Deepwater Horizon: Worker Health Claims

In our PowerPoint report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster we note that one of the many likely legal avenues to be pursued in post-spill litigation includes health claims by workers assisting in the cleanup.

Given the sheer scale of the cleanup, the use of chemical dispersants and the numbers of workers involved in the Deepwater Horizon response, the potential for some type of work-related injury or illness claim appears inevitable. At last count, BP said approximately 43,100 personnel were involved in the response effort.

Now the Wall Street Journal law blog reports on a lawsuit filed by a Louisiana fisherman against BP calling for a court-supervised health monitoring program for volunteers and workers who say they have been exposed to the oil, fumes and other chemicals while cleaning up the spill.

According to the WSJ law blog, the fisherman filing suit (who apparently was hospitalized in late May for illnesses caused by the use of chemical dispersants) says that he and others now suffer new risks of contracting lung cancer, esophageal cancer and leukemia because they didn’t have proper respiratory protection during the cleanup.

Whatever the merits of this individual case, this is an emerging issue to watch.

The latest Deepwater Horizon Response BP injury and illness data report showed a total of 1602 incidents to-date  and earlier this week the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said to-date some 290 oil spill exposure-related cases have been reported.

In its seventh surveillance report released Monday, the Louisiana DHH said that 216 of those cases involved workers on oil rigs or workers involved in the cleanup efforts, while 74 were reported by the general public.

A NIOSH report of BP illness and injury data issued July 12 did not reveal unrecognized or unreported occupational illness, however.

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