Monday, 14 January 2013 13:13

Dispersants

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About 2 million gallons of a chemical dispersant called Corexit was used underwater during the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Mexican Gulf in 2010.

Dispersants are supposed to turn spilled oil into something that can be eaten by microorganisms and thus to have the oil naturally biodegraded or dispersed into the ecosystem and the foodchain. The NOAA report now finds that remarkably few signs of either oil of dispersant contamination can be found in the sea life in the Mexican Gulf. Yet, at the same time it gets emphasized that shellfish are not able to metabolize chemical dispersants as quickly as fish.
As indicated by the proviso, the use of dispersants against oil spills is still subject to investigation and litigation, and other scientific findings indicate that the result of mixing oil with dispersants may be more toxic than oil in itself.
In the US, another federal agency, the Arctic  Research Commission, warns that it is still too early to make any conclusions about wide scale use of dispersants and that a lot more research needs to look into the matter. Especially in the Arctic it’s very much an open question what the effects are from dispersants.
As a matter of fact, the use of dispersants is quite controversial and disputed, also in the courts. The NGO EarthJustice has sued the US Environmental Protection Agency – that allowed the use of dispersants underwater in the 2010 blowout – to tighten the regulation of the chemicals.
Furthermore, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council has called out against the use of dispersants and has been joined by scientists and doctors in their petition to EPA to ban chemicals of undisclosed composition such as Corexit.

Sources:
alaskapublic.org

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