From Green (New York Times Blog):

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP sought and obtained permission to use dispersants, detergent-like compounds, to break up the 200 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude, into tiny droplets that would mix throughout the water column, trying to lessen the immediate impact of the oil slick on fragile coastal ecosystems.

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A review has now been published by Earthjustice, in collaboration with Toxipedia, an online toxicology Wiki, of all the scientific literature concerning the potential health impacts of these 57 chemicals. The report finds that “Of the 57 ingredients: 5 chemicals are associated with cancer; 33 are associated with skin irritation from rashes to burns; 33 are linked to eye irritation; 11 are or are suspected of being potential respiratory toxins or irritants; 10 are suspected kidney toxins; 8 are suspected or known to be toxic to aquatic organisms; and 5 are suspected to have a moderate acute toxicity to fish.”

While words like “associated with” or “linked to” may sound weak and unconvincing, the syntax highlights just how little is actually known about these chemicals. For 13 of the dispersant ingredients, no relevant data could be found.

“BP had a particular set of dispersants on hand and no one at the time seemed to know if they were safe, whether they were safer than other dispersants products that could be used or even whether they were safer for people and the environment than oil alone,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer with Earthjustice. “BP chose Corexit because it was the dispersant on hand, not because it was the safest. However, regulation of dispersants is so inadequate that BP didn’t have enough information to figure out how it compared with other dispersants or oil alone.”

Nick Thorp, a project manager at Toxipedia, said:

There is just not a lot known about these chemicals and their linkages to potential health impacts. More research is really necessary to determine what exposure levels are, and aren’t safe. Ideally these questions would have been answered before the dispersants were approved for use. We’re now backtracking trying to answer these questions, after the public and the environment have already been exposed.

Earthjustice is calling for “more research, greater disclosure of the information that is known, comprehensive toxicity testing, establishment of safety criteria for dispersants, and careful selection of the least toxic dispersants for application in oil spill response.”

More.

Download Complete Report: The Chaos Of Clean-Up

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