In April of 1989 the Exxon Valdez slammed into a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska releasing over 11 million gallons of oil into its frigid waters. ExxonMobil was ordered to pay $5 Billion in punitive damages, an amount that was reduced to $4.5 Billion plus interest in January 2004.
It was a tragic event that the world will not soon forget; especially those directly associated with the aftermath and the diligent workers
who dedicated their lives to its cleanup. To these devoted few, the damaging effects of the Exxon Valdez may not have ended with the thousands of innocent sea creatures killed during and after the spill. In fact, health problems due to exposure to toxic solvents and oil during the cleanup effort may still affect workers today.
Symptoms began appearing in workers as soon as a few months after the cleanup ended. Formerly healthy workers began complaining of ailments ranging from constant headaches
to respiratory problems
, baffling doctors
that treated them at the time. But workers who cleaned the beaches of Prince William Sound blamed the Exxon Valdez spill. Since then, dozens of former workers have made toxic injury court claims as a result of their illnesses. Their voices are finally being heard. Famed legal investigator Erin Brockovich has recommended that affected workers come forward. In a letter addressed to public interest groups in Alaska, Brockovich said, "Chemical poisoning can cause&health problems that manifest as many different symptoms."
Exxon and its cleanup contractor, VECO, Inc., claim there is little proof linking the Exxon Valdez tragedy to the health problems facing former cleanup workers. Rather, the two corporations claim that any health problems are due to a common viral illness. They cite the careful steps taken to ensure workers' safety during the cleanup process, including the use of safety equipment and training. But workers insist that safety was sub par, citing many instances when appropriate equipment was not available and direct exposure to toxic solvents and oil was unavoidable.
Workers say they were only given a few hours of training and cite a lack of research into the adverse health effects of direct exposure to oil and related toxic substances
. According to workers, such oversight has led to illnesses including lung cancer
, liver disease
and pancreatic disorders.
See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of exposure to any toxic substance. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
- Specific Contaminated Sites
- Cataracts: Overview
- Liver Problems
- Lung & Airway Disorders
- Lung Cancer: Overview