While oil spills can cause severe environmental damage to the organisms living in the affected waters, the consequences of using oil dispersants to rectify the spill can make the situation even worse, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, reported NBCNews.com.
The study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant can create a mixture 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.
“There is a synergistic interaction between crude oil and the dispersant that makes it more toxic,” said study co-author and Georgia Tech biologist Terry Snell.
The researchers studied the effect on plankton of oil from the same well that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill mixed with the same dispersant used to clean it up. The potential impact of the toxins can reach all the way to whales through the food chain.
Because the dispersants decrease the size of the oil droplets, it becomes more “bio-available” to organisms living in the water.
A 2010 EPA study did not find that the combination of oil and dispersant was any more toxic than the oil itself, but other studies have also found harmful effects of the mixture on water life.
Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Jan. 27, 2010
To combat last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nearly 800,000 gallons of chemical dispersant were injected directly into the oil and gas flow coming out of the wellhead nearly one mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, as scientists begin to assess how well the strategy worked at breaking up oil droplets, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) chemist Elizabeth B. Kujawinski and her colleagues report that a major component of the dispersant itself was contained within an oil-gas-laden plume in the deep ocean and had still not degraded some three months after it was applied.
“We don’t know if the dispersant broke up the oil,” she added. “We found that it didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.”
by Dahr Jamail
Global Research, November 16, 2010
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama, Nov 15, 2010 (IPS) – Increasing numbers of U.S. Gulf Coast residents attribute ongoing sicknesses to BP’s oil disaster and use of toxic dispersants.
“Now I have a bruising rash all around my stomach,” Denise Rednour of Long Beach, Mississippi told IPS. “This looks like bleeding under the skin.”
Rednour lives near the coast and has been walking on the beach nearly every day since a BP oil rig exploded on Apr. 20. She has noticed a dramatically lower number of wildlife, and said that many days the smell of chemicals from what she believes are BP’s toxic dispersants fill the air.