The oil coursing through the waters off the Gulf of Mexico has wrecked the fishing grounds of poor, fragile seaside communities. Desperate fishermen, their jobs quite suddenly washed out, had no choice but to sign on with BP; slaving in the cleanup effort. Unbeknown to them, however, the muck that’s clogging up their lives may be poisoning their bodies…

Local fishermen hired to work on BP’s uncontrolled oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico are scared and confused. Fishermen here and in other small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of Barataria Bay are getting sick from the working on the cleanup, yet BP is assuring them they don’t need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered BP to switch to less toxic dispersants. Too late for many workers, though…

Fishermen responders who are working BP’s giant uncontrolled slick in the Gulf are reporting bad headaches, hacking coughs, stuffy sinuses, sore throats, and other symptoms.

When the fishermen come home, they find their families hacking, snuffling, and complaining of sore throats and headaches, too.

As others have noted, such rank contempt for the wellbeing of mere labourers is queasily familiar. After 9/11, courageous first responders were told that the air was safe; now, many are ill or dead: lungs ravaged by cancers. In Iraq, burn pits spew toxins far and wide, and yet the U.S. assures its troops that “risks [are] low“. Soldiers, hacking up thick, black gloop, wheezing through diminished lungs and fighting heavy nausea, aren’t inclined to be so sure.

Ricki Ott sees parallels with the Exxon Valdez spill of twenty years ago. Then, while Exxon covered up its flabby corporate ass, many workers staggered out, debilitated by infections. “It’s going to happen all over again,” grim Pandoras prophesied. BP’s conduct goes to show that even with the breakneck charge of industry consumption, some things will never change.

A word, incidentally, for Nile Gardiner, who’s been squealing that the U.S. criticism of BP “smacks of…knee-jerk Brit-bashing“: no offence, dude, but a rowdy, pissed-up Scouser in Johannesburg is better representing our land than you – or BP – are doing in the States.

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