Toxic Dispersants in the Gulf

Toxic Dispersants in the Gulf

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By Scott Baumgartner and Ian Illuminato

Toxic dispersantsSince the explosion of Deepwater Horizon, BP has been using dispersants as part of the cleanup efforts. But there are several problems with these chemicals. For one, they don’t actually clean up the oil. Instead, they break the oil down into tiny particles that sink below the surface of the water. And though not much scientific research has been done on dispersants, the research that has been done points to the conclusion that dispersants are toxic.

By using more than one million gallons of dispersant used so far, BP has treated the Gulf of Mexico as its own special science experiment. Among the dispersants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers to be toxic is Corexit, which is the one being used by BP.

Table of Contents

President’s Column

Introduction: A Crude Awakening

Behind the Scenes:
Severin Skolrud

Ethanol Greenwash:
Not Clean, Not Green

Ending Corporate Control in Congress

Trading Away Peoples’ Rights

Costing Oceans an Arm and a Leg

Toxic Dispersants in the Gulf

Global Solutions for a Global Crisis

Clean Energy Future:  Available Now

When the EPA told BP that the company had to stop using Corexit and find a better alternative, BP refused. But some alternatives the EPA has in mind might not be any better for the environment. One such dispersant is made by Green Earth Technologies, and contains manufactured nanomaterials. Friends of the Earth and coalition members have sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson opposing the use of this dispersant and asking that it not be approved.

Manufactured nanomaterials pose serious health concerns. Many of them are known to be toxic for reasons that regulators and scientists do not fully understand. What we do know is that various manufactured nanomaterials have already been shown to cause severe harm to aquatic life. They’ve also exhibited complex toxicity when they interact with the human body. Additionally, manufactured nanomaterials can quickly bond to other toxic chemicals, and possibly Corexit, which increases overall toxicity.

Nanomaterials or no nanomaterials, one thing is clear. Dumping untested toxic particles into the water, especially in unprecedented quantities, is a dangerous game in which the risks outweigh the benefits.

We do not even know the full nature of these nanomaterials, because this information is considered a trade secret by their manufacturer. Dispersants, on the whole, have closely guarded recipes (though Corexit’s has finally been revealed). Confidential business information should never trump public health concerns. The motives of global business and our economies should be of service to public health and the health of our planet. Businesses should not be solely motivated to make a profit through secrecy, which inherently puts our well-being at risk.

The oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragedy shared by everyone on this planet. If we allow BP to dump even more toxins into the already battered Gulf, what would it say about us? For-profit companies should not be allowed to compromise our and the planet’s well-being just so they can boost their bottom lines.