25 July 2008

Durango ER Nurse Exposed to Toxic Chemicals, Oil Company Declines to Share "Trade Secrets" to Aid Treatment

I didn't read this article until late in the day yesterday. Post columnist Susan Greene discusses the issue of trade secrets in the oil sector. More broadly, I suppose, this sets an ugly trend for chemical companies finding precedent not to divulge the components or ingredients of their products even when workers have been harmed by them and treatment may depend on doctors understanding what, exactly, patients have been exposed to.

In this case, the victims included an oil worker and a Durango ER nurse, Cathy Behr. According to Greene, Behr was exposed to toxic chemicals when a man doused in a "sweet-smelling fluid" showed up in her ER this past April after a drilling accident. Behr was responsible for getting him out of his toxically drenched clothing, especially his boots, and cleaning him up.

As Greene writes next,

[Behr] lost her sense of smell. Her vision blurred. Then came heart, liver and respiratory failures that nearly killed her.

Three doctors diagnosed her with chemical exposure. Trying to figure out how to treat her, one called Weatherford, her patient's oil-field employer, to learn which chemicals it uses to make ZetaFlow, the fluid both were exposed to. The company denied him the information, saying it was a trade secret.

While the state looks into the issue, Behr was recently denied a chance to address a committee hearing. By my read, the oil company successfully lobbied to keep her off the agenda

The whole column is short, succinct, appalling, and well worth a read.