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News Last Updated: Oct 2, 2019 - 4:37:37 PM

Rights Bahamas: Bahamians exposed to dangerous toxic substances
By Right Bahamas
Oct 2, 2019 - 2:05:06 PM

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"Grand Bahama oil leak clean-up effort is failing to protect the health and safety of locals"

STATEMENT by Rights Bahama Vice President, Joseph Darville:

It has come to our attention that several Bahamians are currently undertaking the difficult and hazardous task of cleaning up the large terrestrial oil slick that leaked from Norwegian-owned Equinor facility in Grand Bahama During Hurricane Dorian, without having been provided any protective gear whatsoever.

I have been to the site on several occasions in the past week and have seen Bahamians working in normal civilian clothes and covered with contaminating substances. It is difficult to overstate the grave danger to their health and safety that this poses.

I am told that one man already passed out from the toxic fumes while working, and only afterwards was given a hazmat suit. Meanwhile, the foreign experts brought in by Equinor have been seen touring the site in full protective gear. This is rank elitism and discrimination.

Bahamians desperate for work on a hurricane-ravaged island where there is absolutely none to be found, have been forced to risk their lives in this dangerous undertaking. They deserve that absolutely every precaution be taken to protect their wellbeing. Instead, it seems that they are considered unimportant, expendable, their lives worth less than the cost of a plastic safety suit.

What is happening is an absolute disgrace and I cry shame on the company, the government, or whoever else may be responsible for overseeing this clean-up operation. It is incredible that in this day and age, Bahamians can still be treated like colonial castoffs, as if they were less than human – it is worse than even slaves would be treated really.

Grand Bahama has a dubious recent history of foreign industrial companies exploiting our favourable tax and duty free status, ravaging the land and poisoning the people. In the 1980s as an educator, I campaigned relentlessly for the relocation of several schools located near industrial plants because the children were becoming seriously ill. Today, more than a dozen of the 98 students from his 1982 class have died.

The effects of industrial pollution, of toxic substances like benzene found in petroleum products are like that - sometimes the effects are not felt for years. But exposure can lead to devastating health issues in the short, medium or long term. We are talking about life threatening breathing problems, severe deformities in newborns and an array of aggressive cancers, among many others.

Rights Bahamas calls for an immediate halt to this madness. Our people cannot be made to clean up the noxious spill for which others bear the responsibility, with no protection for themselves. Give our people the tools they need to do the job in safety, or find someone else to do your dirty work.

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