GULF SPILL:

Senior Dems press BP for more data on health impacts, dispersant use

Senior House Democrats are keeping the pressure on BP PLC to release details that could shed more light on the chemical exposures occurring among cleanup workers and locals grappling with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

In a letter sent yesterday to Lamar McKay, CEO of BP America, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) sought a battery of new data relating to the company's air and water testing in the Gulf as well as its use of dispersant sprays, drilling muds and methanol.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has received 109 spill-related health complaints since the oil began leaking offshore.

Markey chairs the environment subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which began examining the health fallout from the oil leak at a hearing Thursday. "A common concern raised by all of the witnesses [last week] was the lack of access to relevant and comprehensive data, records, and information that would permit assessment and evaluation by independent scientists," Markey and Capps wrote.

The Democrats' request encompasses several broad issues stemming from the Gulf crisis. They are seeking more data on the ingredients in BP's drilling muds, which were used in an unsuccessful "top kill" attempt last month; the methane concentration measurements for the area surrounding the gushing well; numbers on how much methanol has been pumped into the Gulf; and details on the company's monitoring to ensure worker exposures to chemicals and other risks comply with Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules.

Scientists and industrial hygiene experts, however, have questioned the ability of existing OSHA standards to fully protect spill cleanup workers even as they echo Markey and Capps' call for more data from BP (Greenwire, June 11).

BP has said its drilling muds used in the Gulf are largely water-based, but the company did not respond to a request for the release of material safety data sheets that could reveal the presence of any potentially toxic ingredients in the products.

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