The oil spilled caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico has already been predicted to cause unprecedented environmental damage, and the fury to quickly clean up as much oil as possible has begun. However, numerous scientists have begun to raise questions about the safety of the dispersants used by BP in the Gulf Coast to break down the oil spill. The primary issue centers around conflicting measures of the safety of the dispersants used by BP. While BP’s own numbers have shown the dispersants are safe, independent and government testing have either found risks associated with the dispersants or arrived at inconclusive results.
Dispute Over Safety of Corexit
The first dispersant used by BP at the site of the Gulf Coast oil spill was known as Corexit. The EPA quickly ordered BP to stop using the dispersant due to concerns about its toxicity. BP insisted that the dispersant was safe and claimed it was one of only five available dispersants that met the EPA’s standards but eventually relented and stopped using the dispersant.
The Risks of Sea Brat
The next dispersant to be used by BP was known as Sea Brat #4, the only other dispersant stocked by BP’s labs that met the EPA’s standards. This dispersant contains a chemical called nonylphenol, which interferes with hormones and was highly likely to cause damage to the ecosystem of the Gulf Coast. On May 26, the EPA ordered that BP limit its usage of this dispersant.
Validity of Safety Tests
Sea Brat continues to be used as a dispersant, and the EPA’s data on other possible dispersants has proven to be conflicting at best and potentially completely unreliable. The amount of a chemical required to kill half of the fish in an area, for example, has varied from 5 ppm to 208ppm, and the numbers gained in safety tests have not been able to be repeated.
Further, there is little data available about the way these dispersants affect large ecosystems, and such vast quantities of these dispersants have never been used before. The use of these dispersants to clean up such a large oil spill in such a delicate ecosystem is a totally unprecedented maneuver and safety questions continue to linger.