Oil Dispersants Used in Gulf of Mexico Spill Causing Alarm
BP has used almost 600,000 gallons of the oil dispersant Corexit at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to break-up the slick from the Deepwater Horizon spill, but concerns are growing about the environmental impact of those chemicals on the Gulf ecosystems and human residents of the area.
Federal officials have expressed the need for more toxicology studies on the dispersants, and whether dispersed oil is any less of a threat than non-dispersed oil. One toxicology expert, Dr. William Sawyer, called the products "deodorized kerosene," and a group of Louisiana fisherman and marine toxicologist Riki Ott are asking President Barack Obama to order BP to stop using the compound.
Most experts won't go that far, but even EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and NOAA administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco admitted in a recent conference call that the effects of the dispersants are largely unknown. Most of the studies performed on the agents have been testing effectiveness on dispersing oil, not on toxicity...
Over the weekend, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the go-ahead to begin using the dispersants at depth to break up the oil, another largely untested process.
The exact chemical composition of the dispersants being used is not public information, but the products are called Corexit 9527 and Corexit 9500. Corexit 9527 was used in the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez spill, and contains 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical solvent that is used in paint thinners and varnish removers, among other products...