Still reeling over the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP was slapped with a lawsuit alleging that its refinery in Texas City emitted hundreds of thousands of pounds of cancer-causing contaminants over a 40-day period earlier this year.
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BP reported that the refinery, the third largest in the U.S., intentionally released the contaminants following an April fire. Among the contaminants released were 17,000 pounds of benzene, which has been identified as a carcinogen. Thousands of nearby residents and refinery workers say they were sickened by their exposure to the chemicals, which also included nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene is found in crude oil and gasoline and, if exposed to in large amounts, can cause any number of ailments, from dizziness to headaches and even death. Long-term effects include a decrease in red blood cells, causing anemia, and changes to the immune system. Benzene can also cause leukemia.
The gas releases by BP were not the first, with others occurring from 2000 to 2007, but never in the amounts that were released in April, according to the attorney general. The history of what the attorney general referred to as 'bad practices' resulted in a 2005 release that led to an explosion at the refinery, killing 15 workers.
Aside from the attorney general’s suit, others have also sought legal action, including a Houston attorney who filed a $10 billion class action suit against BP, claiming that 2,000 people suffered varying ailments following the April incident.
BP has already spent over $6 billion for the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, following the explosion of its deep water well.