Chemical Dispersants Being Used in Gulf Clean-Up Are Potentially Toxic

Tom Philpott writes for Grist:
BlowUp

We finally know the main two dispersants that BP and the U.S. government are using to treat the ongoing Gulf spill.

Both, by their maker’s own admission, have the “potential to bioconcentrate,” and both have “moderate toxicity to early life stages of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks,” according to a study by Exxon, the company that originally developed them.

Their use may be the least-bad course, given the importance of minimizing oil’s effect on coastal wetlands. But a little digging into the chemical makeup of these two substances, which are being dumped in vast quantities into the Gulf, reveals that they could potentially do far more harm than good, both to the Gulf and to humans who later eat from it.

As ProPublica reported Monday, information about dispersants is “kept secret under competitive trade laws.” I’ve spent the last several days trying to confirm what many in the ocean-ecology and public health worlds seemed to know, but no one would say officially: that two different dispersants sold under the banner of Corexit were being used in vast quantities. The Corexit brand is owned by an Illinois-based company called Nalco, which entered the dispersant business back in 1994, when it merged with Exxon’s chemical unit. (By 2004, Exxon had divested and Nalco was a standalone company, according to Nalco’s company history.)

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  • justagirl

    imagine the thick black sludge settling into our beautiful ocean floor. uncle money bags is ruining our earth and all we can do is stand by and watch. it's infuriating.

  • weez

    don't eat the shrimp…that's how the zomb-pocalypse starts, with infected shrimp.

  • Fed UP

    Toxic gasses are coming from the hole in the bottom of the well. what people dont know is that BP drilled over 30,000 feet under the ocean floor. The pressure was too much for the pipes to hold and they blew up. It released deadly gasses that are far worse than the oil leak. E.P.A. did a study on the air quality in the gulf and the amount of gasses that are in the air are tens of thousands of time hihger than a safe limit to breathe. People are getting sick already and I fear it could cause death. What happens when the storms push this crap inland all over the U.S. Thank you BP for playing God and my God damn you on judgement day

  • Fed UP

    Toxic gasses are coming from the hole in the bottom of the well. what people dont know is that BP drilled over 30,000 feet under the ocean floor. The pressure was too much for the pipes to hold and they blew up. It released deadly gasses that are far worse than the oil leak. E.P.A. did a study on the air quality in the gulf and the amount of gasses that are in the air are tens of thousands of time hihger than a safe limit to breathe. People are getting sick already and I fear it could cause death. What happens when the storms push this crap inland all over the U.S. Thank you BP for playing God and my God damn you on judgement day