On the eighth memorial of the BP disaster, let’s support the individuals and communities sickened by the BP disaster and by multiple system response failures. In this ongoing nightmare, we can work toward justice for BP victims and their families and toward system-wide accountability to avert similar tragedies in the future.
Hundreds of thousands of people were victimized by BP, the federal government, the court, and even the medical community. Among those suffering are:
- commercial fisherman and families in the four states most impacted by BP’s oil;
- people who responded to work on beach cleanup, including prisoners;
- families who fled inland to escape exposure to toxic Gulf air and waters;
- scientists who spent time in salt marshes, shallow bays, open ocean, or sandy shores to monitor ecosystem health;
- first responders like the U.S. Coast Guard who often conducted daily spraying of toxic dispersants during disaster response;
- unsuspecting media, film crews, tourists, and residents believed that the beaches and water were safe, because the U.S. President, BP commercials, the tourism industry, and most local community leaders said so – while advisory signs warned to “swim at your own risk”…
These personal tragedies become societal tragedies when we realize that chemical illnesses from exposure to oil and dispersants are preventable. They are often misdiagnosed – and therefore mistreated – by medical professionals.
For example, the scientific and medical communities knew from maritime oil disasters in Spain (Prestige, 2002) and South Korea (Hebei Spirit, 2008) that breathing oil-laden air disrupted DNA coding, a precursor for genetic mutations that often cause tumors, cancers, and disease. Breathing contaminated air also worsened or caused respiratory illnesses, damaged internal organs like liver and kidneys, harmed the central nervous system, blistered layers of skin and flesh, ruptured red blood cells, and more. U.S. agencies were well aware of these studies.
U.S. agencies and scientific and medical communities also knew about harmful effects to animals and humans of heavy-duty industrial solvents, which are key ingredients in Corexit dispersants that were used during BP disaster response. To minimize harm to humans, safety materials for Corexit dispersants have warnings like, “Do not contaminate surface waters.” Yet these same Corexit dispersants are stored around the country for on-water response during the next maritime oil disaster.
If our government is knowingly going to put people in harm’s way, the state is creating a danger, and it should be prepared either to provide lifetime health care for people who become sick or to relocate people out of harm’s way. Relocation means to other communities, not sports stadiums, where lives can be lived with normalcy until the harm is past. In hindsight, this would have been until at least December 2010 for the BP disaster.
Clearly, it’s much less expensive to prevent harm in the first place. Federal agencies like EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard do not have to authorize use of toxic dispersants, but they do.
Adding to the ongoing tragedy among Gulf Coast residents and visitors is the fact that Congress prevented adoption of the new medical (ICD-10) codes that include chemical illnesses until October 1, 2015, well after the BP class action medical claims process closed in February 2015. This meant that during the BP disaster, health care providers were limited to diagnoses of allergies, cold or flu, vertigo, heat stroke, MRSA bacterial infections, and such, even when they suspected chemical illnesses from oil and dispersant exposures.
Congress did not have to stall adoption of the medical (ICD-10) codes until late 2015. The rest of the world started using these codes when they became available 20 years earlier in 1994. The medical community could have chosen to properly recognize and treat chemical illnesses with or without insurance reimbursement, but they chose to protect their career instead of their patients.
The plaintiffs’ class action lawyers did not have to craft a medical “benefits” settlement that excluded people who did not have a written medical diagnosis of chemical illnesses, or people who lived more than one-half a mile from the coast, but they chose to profit from tragedy, instead of protect their clients. The court did not have to dump thousands of claimants, but the judge chose to be part of the gross deception and to turn a blind eye to justice.
Other industrialized nations and the World Health Organization recognize and treat for chemical illnesses from industrial exposures, which have overtaken malaria and tuberculosis as the leading cause of illnesses in the world.
So that is why, on April 20 and 21, I am standing in solidarity with the BP victims to demand accountability and system change. It is time for us to hold the U.S. government accountable for the harm it inflicts upon its citizens during oil-chemical disasters.
Please join us and take action.
- Sign the petition to support a court remedy
- Stand in solidarity at the rally on Saturday, April 21, 11:00 AM CDT, at Duncan Plaza in New Orleans, Louisiana
- Share recent studies with your health care providers about chemical illnesses, especially if YOU have illnesses that are not responding to treatment.
- Share accessible science tools with your friends who are fighting fossil fuel activities in their backyards.