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Breathing equipment being given to some oil spill workers

By Aaron Cooper, CNN
  • Equipment is going to workers at the site of the well and controlled burns
  • The EPA says oil can give off toxic vapors as it evaporates
  • There is no indication that workers need the respirators, official says

(CNN) -- More than 70 days into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill some workers are getting special breathing apparatus.

The Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command, which includes BP and government agencies, announced Thursday that teams working at the well site and workers conducting controlled burns of the oil are being given respirators.

Workers had not been given breathing protection previously.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oil can give off toxic vapors as it evaporates.

Chris Coulon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Unified Command, said air sampling is being conducted and there is "no indication at all" that the respirators being distributed are necessary.

Coulon said other crews working on the response, such as those with beach cleanup teams and on skimming vessels, are not being given the protective breathing equipment, but can wear their own personal masks if they choose.

On May 27, BP's director of external affairs, John Curry, responded to CNN questions about why workers had not been given respirators by saying, "We are trying to keep them out of places that they need respirators, and all of the readings we have taken so far have shown they don't need them."