Today in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the Occupational Safety and  Health Administration and how they felt it wasn’t necessary for oil relief workers to wear respiratory masks.

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Um, what?

Looking at photos of the oil spill and understanding the magnitude of the disaster, it’s clear this isn’t just a case of spilled milk. Tones of gallons of oil were dumped into the Gulf and have reached the shores of Louisiana. And this oil is full of toxins — or at least it was, until they all evaporated into the air and workers breathed them in.

According to an article from Fox10 news just days after the spill, the crude oil from the spill was tested and researchers concluded that no, the oil wasn’t as toxic as some oil drills, but only because the majority of the poisonous toxins had evaporated while the oil was rising to the surface of the water, becoming ambient air pollution and invading the lungs of oil relief workers and BP employees.

And yet the OSHA still maintains that respiratory masks are not necessary.

Days after the oil spill, a local environmental group LEAN (Louisiana Environmental Action Network) conducted tests and found that the air in the area near the oil spill contained up to 100 times the safe amount of toxins. Benzene and VOCs were detected. Long-term exposure to benzene has been directly linked to cancer.

And yet, respirators aren’t necessary.

Workers at the BP oil spill have been complaining of falling ill and were not provided with proper safety gear for the first few weeks of work. These local fisherman whose livelihoods were shattered by the oil spill worked sans protection to clear the oil by burning the surface of the water to burn the oil off. But, burning crude oil doesn’t exactly smell like roses and their lungs are starting to suffer for it.

Workers are falling ill, complaining of chest pains; a common symptom of bad ozone. While this is one of the more mild symptoms, continuous exposure to “bad” ozone (from burning oil) can lead to a damaged lung capacity, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and asthma.

But, the OSHA must be right: Oil spill cleanup crews don’t need respirators. Nope, not at all.

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