It’s been more than four years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but health impacts resulting from the disaster continue. Tonight on HBO, the investigative journalism program VICE will cover the ongoing health issues stemming from the use of the dispersant Corexit for BP’s oil spill “cleanup.” GAP, which published a report last year about the dispersant’s deadly impacts, worked closely with the show’s producers on the program.
The episode will feature Dr. Michael Robichaux, the physician who prompted GAP’s multiyear investigation into this public health crisis when he contacted us with his concerns in 2011. He witnessed serious health problems firsthand while treating patients after the disaster.
In light of these disclosures, GAP teamed up with the nonprofit Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) to launch a full-fledged investigation, interviewing 25 whistleblowers (including cleanup workers, doctors, divers and Gulf residents) who provided firsthand accounts of Corexit’s impact. Conclusions from the investigation strongly suggest that the dispersant was widely applied in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared. In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone.
Since the report’s release, nightmarish public health tragedies have intensified for an increasing number of victims. GAP is preparing to release a second wave of evidence that documents the ongoing health impacts from Corexit and oil exposure. It is inexcusable that four years after the spill, Gulf residents and cleanup workers still don’t have access to medical treatment. In conjunction with our partners at LEAN and the Citizen’s Coalition to Ban Toxic Dispersants, GAP has been calling for immediate medical treatment and dispersant reform.
Shockingly, there have been no changes to dispersant regulations since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Despite documented health impacts from Corexit use, and the largest oil spill class action medical settlement in U.S. history, the government continues to approve dispersants without any independent data about their risks. Adding insult to injury, a 2005 report by the National Academy of Sciences warned that “the current understanding of key processes and mechanisms is inadequate to confidently support a decision to apply dispersants.”
This summer the EPA is scheduled to revise the criteria for dispersants approved under the National Contingency Plan.
The VICE episode airs tonight on HBO. Watch the trailer here.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.