The Deepwater Horizon oil spill by BP in 2010 was an industrial disaster of epic proportions -- the largest marine oil spill ever recorded. It may have forever altered marine life and changed the biodiversity of the area where it happened.
It may also still be making a lot of the workers who cleaned up the mess sick. Many others may get sick in the future.
Members of cleanup crews report that they often struggled to perform their job duties without access to the personal protective equipment that they needed to protect them against the chemicals in the spill. One such worker, now 52 years of age, reports that he and the rest of his crew became violently ill after being exposed to water contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, and other chemicals. Contaminated water got on their face, soaked into their skin and burned their eyes.
Many of these workers, including those from Louisiana, were working for subcontractors, not BP directly. That's why they haven't necessarily been compensated the way that employees who worked directly for BP have been compensated -- despite sharing the same symptoms. BP agreed to a settlement that paid injured response workers $60,700 each. Many suffer from periodic headaches, nausea, bronchial spasms and sinus pain.
Worse, however, is the creeping fear that they may be harboring a far more serious condition that just hasn't fully had time to develop yet: cancer. There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term health effects of the exposure they suffered during their time on the cleanup crews. An estimated 20,000 workers may be affected -- none of whom received compensation from BP.
Anyone who worked for a contractor during the cleanup of the oil spill was ultimately excluded from the settlement offered by BP if their initial conditions were diagnosed after April 12, 2012, no matter when symptoms first appeared. They'll have to file lawsuits if they wish to obtain a settlement.
Cases like this illustrate the often Byzantine processes that can happen in complex personal injury claims. If you suspect that chemical exposure may lead to injuries, it's important to carefully track all your medical information. Those records can often be the difference between a case that settles easily and one that has to be hard-fought for years.