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Personal Injury Claims Arising from Chemical Dispersant Exposure Can Proceed

Several companies involved with the use of chemical dispersants known as Corexit have been denied their motion for immunity from potentially thousands of personal injury lawsuits stemming from the use of Corexit after the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010. Sources say that during the oil spill cleanup effort unprecedented amounts of Corexit were used in an effort to disperse the oil which remained in the water. Sources say over 1.8 million gallons of Corexit have been used to treat the Gulf waters. Reportedly, the Environmental Protection Agency requested that BP cease using Corexit amidst concerns about the dispersant'sknown toxicity. However, BP objected to the request and continued to use Corexit to treat the remaining oil in the water. Some Corexit dispersants have been outlawed in several countries because of its known toxicity. Further, a recent report has even linked Corexit to some forms of cancer. View full report

According to reports, one piece of the massive multi-district litigation arising from the BP oil spill involves claims by individuals who have suffered injuries from exposure to the Corexit dispersants. Sources say Nalco, the dispersant's manufacturer, attempted to dismiss the claims by contending that it followed orders past down from the President of the United States. Legal authorities say if Nalco was following federal orders it could have sought immunity under the government contractor defense and a provision of the Clean Water Act (CWA) that protects any private contractor following orders from the federal government.

However, according to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, Nalco was following orders from BP and not orders from the President. Thus, Nalco can be held liable for the damages stemming from the use of Corexit in the cleanup effort. Because the people alleging to be injured are named simply as plaintiffs in some complaints, sources speculate that claims arising from the Gulf oil spill cleanup could number in the hundreds of thousands.

Reportedly, the bundle of lawsuits relating to the oil spill cleanup allege that the oil and/ or dispersants caused headaches, nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems, eye irritation, rashes, lesions, and burns. Further, the lawsuits allege that exposure to Corexit may lead to serious problems, disease, and medical conditions and plaintiffs are at a significantly increased risk of contracting serious latent disease. According to reports, the master complaint alleges that BP continued to use Corexit even though the United States had recommended against the chemical's use in the BP Oil Spill cleanup.

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