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.
The Surfrider Foundation has released its preliminary “State of the Beach” study for the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Sadly, things aren’t getting cleaner faster, according to their results. The Corexit that BP used to “disperse” the oil now appears to be making it tougher for microbes to digest the oil. I wrote about this problem in depth in “The BP Cover-Up.”
The persistence of Corexit mixed with crude oil has now weathered to tar, yet is traceable to BP’s Deepwater Horizon brew through its chemical fingerprint. The mix creates a fluorescent signature visible under UV light. From the report:
The program uses newly developed UV light equipment to detect tar product and reveal where it is buried in many beach areas and also where it still remains on the surface in the shoreline plunge step area. The tar product samples are then analyzed…to determine which toxins may be present and at what concentrations. By returning to locations several times over the past year and analyzing samples, we’ve been able to determine that PAH concentrations in most locations are not degrading as hoped for and expected.
Worse, the toxins in this unholy mix of Corexit and crude actually penetrate wet skin faster than dry skin (photos above)—the author describes it as the equivalent of a built-in accelerant—though you’d never know it unless you happened to look under fluorescent light in the 370nm spectrum. The stuff can’t be wiped off. It’s absorbed into the skin.
And it isn’t going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:
The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.
26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.
The full Surfrider Foundation report by James H. “Rip” Kirby III, of the University of South Florida is open-access online here
Aljazeera, Aug. 2, 2011
When news of the disastrous BP oil well explosion reached the residents of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana last April, Mayor Tim Kerner did the only thing he could think of to stop the oil from destroying his community. He encouraged everyone in his town to join him on the water, working day and night throughout the disaster to clean-up the spill.
Now, one year after BP managed to cap the runaway well that fouled the Gulf of Mexico with an estimated five million barrels of oil, most of those people are ill.
“I’m afraid my neighbors will come to me and say, I wouldn’t have listened to you and kept my job if I knew it would kill me,” Kerner said.
Kerner’s story was one of many shared by Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, at a briefing Wednesday evening, the day after she led a delegation to the Gulf Coast to assess the scope of the emerging healthcare crisis in the wake of the BP drilling disaster.
“The residents are sick,” Kennedy said. “They don’t know what the exact cause of their illness is, but because they never suffered this way before the spill and they were all out on their fishing boats throughout the clean-up, they suspect this has something to do with the toxins.”
Pure Energy Systems News, Mar. 12, 2011
The crude oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico (while BP continually under-reported the flow rate of gushing oil) was obviously harmful to the ecologic environment. However, instead of utilizing safe techniques to remove their toxic sludge they chose fast and risky methods to remove as much oil as possible from the public eye. In order to minimize the public relations nightmare and hide much of the magnitude of their guilt, chemical dispersants were utilized.
Disturbingly, BP had many alternative dispersants at their disposal that exhibit less toxicity [than Corexit]. One of these is named, “Dispersit” and is made by Polychem, a division of U.S. Polychemical Corporation. It is claimed to be water based, non-toxic, and poses almost no risk to humans. However, even if BP had not chosen to use Dispersit, they had a dozen other EPA approved dispersants on a list they could have chosen from. For some reason these safer alternatives were ignored.
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.