EPA Downplays Toxicity of Chemical Dispersants

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Monday, August 02, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Legislators may have concerns about the use of chemical dispersants to break apart oil in the Gulf, but testing from the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled today finds that oil mixed with dispersants has a similar toxicity to oil alone.

These results come just days after an investigation by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) found that the U.S. Coast Guard approved more than 74 requests by BP and the Unified Command Center in Louisiana to deviate from requirements for dispersant use, even after EPA and the Coast Guard issued a directive to lower dispersant use.

According to an EPA statement on the testing, the second round conducted by the agency:

The results indicate that for all eight dispersants in both test species, the dispersants alone were less toxic than the dispersant-oil mixture. Oil alone was found to be more toxic to mysid shrimp than the eight dispersants when tested alone. Oil alone had similar toxicity to mysid shrimp as the dispersant-oil mixtures, with exception of the mixture of Nokomis 3-AA and oil, which was found to be more toxic.

On a conference call with reporters today, EPA Assistant Administrator for Research and Development Paul Anastas said dispersant use in the Gulf was stopped on July 29, adding “we hope and we expect” not to need to use the chemicals again. Anastas added that the agency did not take the “environmental tradeoffs” of using dispersants lightly and only used them as an “effort of last resort.”

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ajm8127
Comment posted August 2, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

Testing the oil/dispersant mixture alone is inadequate. Any testing must also take into account the way dispersants change how the oil interacts with the water column. Instead of congealing into masses on top of the water, oil at sea treated with dispersants seemingly disappears. Where did all of the oil in the gulf go? That's what we need to figure out. And once that's known, it would help to know how that widely distributed oil affects aquatic life, you know, our food.


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