BP Cleanup Worker Health Issues Add Up, And So Do Claims

By Julianne Hing Jun 10, 2010

Underwater efforts to cap the oil leak have been partially successful, but up on the water’s surface, the cleanup effort is being hampered by the many health issues cleanup workers have been dealing with. On top of that, temperatures in the Gulf Coast hit 110 degrees yesterday, prompting fireboats to start spraying water on the oil-slicked surface to combat the toxic fumes that the combined oil and chemical dispersants have created.

There are at least 24,400 people working on the oil disaster response, and ProPublica reports that so far 50 cleanup workers in Louisana have become ill. In Alabama, there have been 15 reported cases of illness.

But people don’t have much faith in BP’s ability to keep workers safe from here on out. Not only has the company threatened to fire cleanup workers who bring their own safety equipment, but lax government regulations mean the company is not required to provide respirators to workers or implement other measures that would ensure the safety of workers.

McClatchy reported that the government doesn’t specify levels at which workers can get sick from exposure to many of the toxins that they are being exposed to and BP is not responsible for evacuating workers or otherwise ensuring the safety of people who do cleanup work. One million gallons of dispersants have been used so far in the cleanup.

Meanwhile, the list of people seeking damages and promised claims from BP continues to grow. BP’s hired 700 insurance folks and claims adjustors, Dan Willis, BP America’s Vice President of Resources, said on Capitol Hill. Fishermen can file claims—captains are allowed $5,000 and deck hands make somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000, and once paperwork clears people who’ve lost wages because of the spill are eligible for more from the company. So far the company’s paid out 18,000 claims and predicted it will spend $84 million on claims through just June.

According to a federal filing made by BP today, the current cost of its response to the oil spill stands at $1.43 billion.

Photo: Getty Images/Win McNamee