French Oil Cleanup Volunteers Take Gov't To Court

Tuesday, March 14, 2000
Volunteers who mopped up the oil spill France's Atlantic coast from the sunken tanker Erika have taken the state to court for not warning of potential health risks, a spokesperson for the group said. The Association of Erika Volunteers (ABE) filed lawsuits at five regional tribunals along France's western coast on March 10, each targeting the local prefect. France's National Institute for Risks in the Environment (INERIS) announced last Wednesday that the sticky oil - still washing ashore - could cause cancer. The report said people wearing protective clothing faced no danger, but those treating birds, who often did not wear gloves and worked in confined areas, could face problems. A second report into health risks, drawn up by Dutch researchers for the French ministries of health and environment and released last Thursday, said the danger of contracting cancer from the oil that came ashore was negligible. When the fuel oil first washed ashore after the tanker sank last December, local authorities told people to wear gloves and boots, but did not say there were potential cancer risks. Volunteers argue that many people found it easier to work with their bare hands, and did so while the public authorities knew that the fuel oil was carcinogenic. They want the state to pay for follow-up medical costs, a spokesperson said.

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