Where Are the Respirators?

Kate Sheppard
Progressive groups and fisherman are attacking the Obama administration for not protecting cleanup workers in the Gulf from hazardous oil and chemical dispersant fumes. Last week, a coalition of local and national groups launched BPMakesMeSick.com, a petition calling on President Obama to ensure that BP provides workers in the Gulf with respirators.
The petition, sponsored by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), states:

We cannot let the denial of protective gear that hurt so many 9/11 clean-up workers happen again with the Gulf clean-up workers.
President Obama and the federal government must demand that BP allow every clean-up worker who wants to wear respiratory protective equipment to do so—and ensure that workers get the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely.

 Despite the fact that oil contains a number of harmful chemicals that workers should not inhale, the federal government does not presently require that BP provide respirators for all cleanup workers. At the end of June, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance recommending that respirators be provided for workers closest to the spill site—those who are on vessels performing controlled burns of the oil or trying to contain the leak itself. But regulators still don’t require BP to provide respirators for cleanup crews working further away from the busted well. That’s what BPMakesMeSick is trying to change. 

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