Plaintiffs claim cancer from BP leak, file suit in state court

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 10, 2010, 4:46am

Jason Gibson

GALVESTON - Six residents of the upper Texas Gulf Coast have filed suit against BP after they reportedly contracted cancer from exposure to a chemical leak earlier this year.

Martha and Rafael Guzman, Martin Torres, Gabriel and Pedro Medrano, and Errol Osborne claim the release of chemicals at the oil major's Texas City refinery from April 6 to May 16 gave them myeloid leukemia, the original complaint, filed Aug. 3 in Galveston County District Court, says.

The emissions allegedly began when the hydrogen compressor in the Ultracracker unit went online.

Court papers argue that BP released more than 500,000 pounds of pollutants into the air during the 40-day period, asserting the plaintiffs were exposed to lethal amounts of cancer causing agents including benzene.

"The refinery released more than 400 pounds of benzene per day, nearly 40 times the state reportable levels," the suit states. "(Benzene) is a cancer causing agent known to damage lung tissue and cause respiratory problems."

BP is faulted for not informing the plaintiffs, their employers, and the surrounding community about the release and exposure to the lethal chemicals.

"After 40 days of exposure, the plaintiffs began having respiratory problems, experienced troubled breathing, suffered from headaches, and noticed an increase in heart rate and blood pressure," the suit says.

"The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states benzene causes harmful effects on bone marrow and reduces red blood cells. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined long term exposure to benzene, a latent occupational disease, creates a reasonable probability of causing cancer in humans, including acute myeloid leukemia."

Refinery manager Keith Casey is named a co-defendant in the suit.

The Southeast Texas Record reported on Aug. 5 that Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee filed a $10 billion class action lawsuit in Galveston federal court against BP on behalf of more than 2,200 refinery workers and residents who claim they were also exposed to hazardous chemical during the release.

The Gibson Law Firm is representing the plaintiffs.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is presiding over the case.

Case No. 10-cv-2164

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