First responders and citizens ran toward danger without considering the consequences to their own lives, just like in 911, in order to save the coastline, marine life, and our livelihoods. The citizens used their own boats and resources. They brought chemical exposure home to their families. Early victims with acute illnesses were treated as such by the medical profession because their chemical exposure was obvious. But as time passed on, it wasn’t so obvious to victims nor their primary care physicians. Primary care physicians would see symptoms common place to other illnesses and wrongly diagnosis and treat patients for those illnesses. When the patients would not improve, they would either engage in further testing, refer them to someone else, or simply give up.

Occupational & Environmental Medical Physicians (OEMP) are the experts in this field, but the government put nothing in place to establish a protocol that minimized exposure, made first responders and citizens aware of the risks to themselves and their families, and manage the healthcare relationship between the public and the physicians. If a board of OEMPs would have been established clean-up workers and their families would have been able to keep a better quality of life, live a longer one, and it would have been cheaper on the state, federal government, and BP. The failure to establish this board made Frank’s story everyone’s story.

How Many People Got Chemical Exposure?

According to court documents, BP estimates that 200,000 people across the coast are subject to develop latent injuries such as cancer years later after exposure.

  • They estimate about 90,000 clean up workers,
  • and the rest live in their “Zone A and Zone B” maps. These maps consider people that were there between April 20, 2010 and September 30, 2010. Zone A areas are typically beach areas from which the zone extends half a mile. Zone B areas are typically bayous or marshland from which the zone extends an additional mile. Of course, many argue that residents that this does not include populated areas who live near them breathing in the same air.
  • What it also does not consider are the people that came in contact with the workers. If the worker did not properly wash himself down and tend to his own clothes and other gear that came into contact with the chemicals, then whoever else touched it is now exposed. So the estimate of acute and latent injuries is likely much greater than 200,000.

What Type of Medical Program Was Setup for Chemical Exposure Victims?

Meanwhile, BP was required to fund a PERIODIC MEDICAL CONSULTATION PROGRAM (PMCP). The PMCP program entitled “qualified” class members to an initial consultation visit and a subsequent medical consultation visit once every 3 years, for a period of 21 years; It only allowed for a basic one-time diagnosis and covered only “primary care” issues, like colds or flus, basically excluding symptoms related to chemical exposure. Victims suffering and/or diagnosed after April 2012 did not qualify. Out of 27,472 PMCP enrollees, less than 3,500 physician appointments were scheduled.

How were the chemical exposure victims compensated?

During 4 years after the spill, approximately 37,000 health claims were brought against BP.  Judge Barbier settled the case limiting the acute injury claims to those diagnosed within the first 2 years of the disaster reclassifying 80% of the claims as the latent injury claims that BP described as injuries, such as cancer, that take years to develop.  Of the 20% (7000) of the claims that qualified for acute injuries, only 40 claim were compensated for serious injuries, and the rest averaged about $1300. Many didn’t accept the settlement and opted out of it and have been waiting for justice now for 9 years while getting sicker or dying. So are the new plaintiffs that have developed illnesses since the settlement as BP predicted. Now, with no money to help compensate their cost of living due to their loss of work, illnesses, disabilities, and overall inability to support their families, they have to rely on social services, family, and friends or become homeless or die. Still today in 2020, most victims have never been compensated for their injuries, continue to be overlooked, and have become disappearing victims by dying off like Frank.

Why is there no focus on CHEMICAL EXPOSURE safety?

Safety is not proprietary and the primary motivation for improving safety in each instance is that neither the public (as consumers and as voters) nor the government would allow such enterprises to operate if they suffered many accidents. Even inherently risky businesses can be made much safer, given the right motivations and systems-safety management practices.

The market has a financial mechanism for encouraging risk-managing behaviors: the cost of insurance and the liability of lawsuit settlements. Without it, the cost that rightfully belongs to the business gets subsidized by the victims through their costs of resources, opportunities, health, and life. It is critical that compensation to victims be paid in full, and that the process for receiving compensation is swift and efficient and should be considered the cost of doing business.

Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a revenue generator enjoyed by both industry and government so the Gulf of Mexico has enjoyed regulatory exemption to not stifle production. In short, the safety risks dramatically increased with the shift to the Gulf ’s deep waters, but Presidents, members of Congress, and agency leadership had become preoccupied for decades with the enormous revenues generated by such drilling rather than focused on ensuring its safety.