Attorney Stuart Smith blames both BP and the US government for the health problems of Gulf Coast residents and clean-up workers [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]
"These people have almost identical symptoms to chemical plant and refinery workers that were exposed," Smith told Al Jazeera. "It's really sad to me that, in a place like America, that the government itself and BP simply ignored all of these people who are violently ill. They know that a lot of these areas in Louisiana that were impacted are poor areas and a lot of the people don't have health insurance and they just basically let them blow in the wind and it's really a disgrace. I think that the decision was made at the highest level of our government to save BP at any cost. And they did not want these people in respiratory gas masks on national television."
BP, who has only paid out 140 claims for death or injury related to the spill, does not appear to want to acknowledge the scope of the problem, he said.
"I would describe BP's reaction to the allegations of significant health impacts as like an ostrich. Ostrich syndrome. They are sticking their heads in the sand, they don't want to hear it. And they don't want to pay for it, for sure."
For more than one year, Al Jazeera has interviewed dozens of Gulf Coast residents and clean-up workers who all tested positive for having BP's chemicals in their blood. So far, they say, finding either proper health treatment or financial compensation from BP has been nearly impossible for most of them.