Update at bottom: 7 in hospital receiving treatment for contact with dispersant

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – All 125 commercial fishing boats helping oil recovery efforts off Louisiana's Breton Sound area have been recalled after four workers reported health problems, officials said.

The crew members aboard three separate vessels "reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains" mid-afternoon Wednesday, the US Coast Guard said in a statement.

"No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this (recall) action as an extreme safeguard," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox.

The move raises questions over the safety of the clean-up operation in and around the Gulf in Mexico, in particular the protection workers have been given as they mitigate the oil, and the toxicity of the controversial chemical dispersants being used by BP in an attempt to break up the slick.

One of the workers had to be evacuated by air ambulance to a nearby hospital for treatment, another followed by boat and the other two were transported by ground, the statement added.

Safety officeres for BP along with US officials with the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the incident.

A ruptured well from BP's sunken Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig has spewed millions of barrels of crude over the five weeks, encroaching on prized southern US coast wetlands and wildlife preserves, as well as billion-dollar fishing and tourism destinations.

7 in hospital receiving treatment for contact with dispersant

"Seven people have been admitted into the West Jefferson Medical Center and are receiving treatment for having contact with dispersant while working to clean up the oil spillm.," WWLT reports.

Taslin Alfonso, a spokesperson for the hospital, said two of the men came by ambulance and one by helicopter. All three were on the same boat in Venice. The other four came by ground.

Alfonso said it "seems to be the case" that some of the men, such as the one flown in by helicopter, have worse conditions than the rest, but the hospital can't release any more information at this time.

Because they are still being examined and treated by doctors, the cause of the men's condition is still unknown. But Alfonso said the workers do believe that the dispersant caused their symptoms.

Tuesday's New York Times reported, as RAW STORY noted, that "state and federal officials feuded with BP over its failure to meet deadlines and its refusal to stop spraying a toxic dispersant" over the weekend.

The oil company had indicated that it could stem the flow of oil on Tuesday by trying a procedure known as a top kill, in which heavy fluid would be pumped into the well. But on Monday morning the company’s chief operating officer said the procedure would be delayed until Wednesday. At the same time, BP was locked in a tense standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered the company to stop using a toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit by Sunday.

But BP continued spraying the chemical on Monday, despite the E.P.A.’s demand that it use a less toxic dispersant to break up the oil. The company told the agency that no better alternative was available.

(with additional reporting by Raw Story)