BP Oil Spill: Not Gagging Everyone

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So far, at least 325,000 gallons (over 1 million liters) of two types of dispersant have been used: Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A. One is designed for light, fresh oil or oil which has been released. The other is designed for heavier oils. The idea behind the dispersant is to break up the oil and cause it to bead, preventing it from sticking to anything. Once beaded, the naturally occurring Microbes can eat away at the oil and clean the manmade mess up. Explaining it this way always sounds quite harmless, but the truth be known it is just smoke and mirrors as far as I was concerned.

There are many problems with dispersant. One main problem that occurs with use of dispersant is the oil spreads further, causing it to impact more of the environment. This is where the smoke and mirrors come in. Birds and surface dwellers benefit greatly from this process as well as shorelines and marsh grasses. It is the thousands of underwater dwellers that get the blunt impact of the dispersant. While we save the birds and beaches, the fish, plankton and encrustations, as well as all water dwellers will suffer. Something that they never tell you and hope you do not find out. Trading looks and illusions for food and survival of species affected reminds me of the saying “out of sight, out of mind.”


To make sure I fully understood the impact to the underwater dwellers I had it explained to me in laymen terms, as the food chain.

They break the oil down into small beads, microbes eat away at the oils and small natural water cleaners (bugs) eat these microbe filled oil beads. Then come minnows or small encrustations that eat the bugs, the bigger type of fish like salmon eat the minnows, larger fish feed off the salmon and then our fisherman catch the larger fish and we serve it to our families. Passing any toxic chemicals from one to another through the digestive process. Not much different then the pesticides found on fruit and vegetables. If you cannot peel it, then chances are you are eating a mouthful of pesticides; no amount of washing will remove it from the veggie or fruit. After a while you eat enough of it, you can be affected in some form or another. Like the dispersant, full long-term effects of pesticides are still unknown .So far the dispersant used does not sound anymore harmful then the dish soap we use to clean the wildlife or do our dishes with. Maybe it is the lesser of two evils.

Just joshing with you; you should know my idol curiosity and the need to know would never leave you hanging like that. So off to find out more about this product. Corexit EC9500 A, who makes it? A company by the name of Nalco.

First stop on the site was right to the ingredients found in these chemicals being used. They list the scientific names, but they are kind enough to list what common products contain the same chemical found in their product. Skin cream, body shampoo, emulsifier in juice and foods, baby bath, mouth wash, face lotion, tanning lotions, air fresheners, and household cleaners. What it failed to tell me was if 9500A was made to the same safe specifications as these everyday products. If the quantity of parts per million or measured amounts were equivalent to these other products. As well as, if all these common products were mixed together would it change the toxicity levels? It was a nice try on their part to snowball Joe public.

Moving to the FAQ section, I have to quote them, “The droplets are then digested by naturally occurring micro-organisms. Dispersant inhibits oil from forming a slick and makes oil less likely to stick to animals, shoreline rocks and vegetation” Unquote. Geez, I wonder where the mention of marine life is in this answer. The true victims of this product is never mentioned anywhere.

FAQ number two that caught my attention, quote “Dispersants are usually used on the surface of the ocean and distributed by aircraft flying over an oil spill.” Unquote. They prefer to use undiluted product when spraying. This disturbed me on so many levels and for so many reasons. Before going to the site I stopped to read the Safety Data sheet they provide to companies that use this product. In section six of this data, under Accidental release measures, Subsection: Environmental precautions: DO NOT CONTAMINATE SURFACE WATER. Damn, someone forgot to tell the pilot!

As alarming as this may be, let’s move to section eight of the data sheet. Exposure control/ personal protection. Subsection- Occupational exposure: Exposure guidelines have NOT been established for this product. Subsection – Respiratory Protection: When concentrations in the air exceed the limits we recommend using half masks or air supplied breathing apparatus. Wear PVC gloves, standard protective clothing, chemical splash goggles, have a eye wash fountain available and keep a safety shower available in case of contamination. And my favorite subsection of section eight, human exposure characterization: Based on the recommended product application and personal protective equipment, potential human exposure is LOW. But remember there are no guidelines to follow.

OK!! The next time I apply lotion or do my dishes, I will have to remember to dawn my hazard suit, put on my goggles and open the windows for ventilation. I have been doing it all wrong for all these years. I only wish they put that advice on the label. I feel sorry for all those people who are working diligently to save the wildlife, have they seen the data sheet?

Section 11 toxicological information: No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product. Subsection: Human hazard characterization: The potential human hazard is Moderate. Weird, because located on a flier sent out to promote the product it states Quote: “Corexit 9500 contains the same well-proven, biodegradable low TOXICITY present in 9527.” Unquote. I take it, that product 9527 was never tested either. The gulf is being subjected to both like a bad science experiment.

Posted on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) site prior to the recent update: Under Ec9500A, in section viii labeled physical properties. Chemical name and percentage of weight of the formulation CONFIDENTIAL, Surface-active agents: CONFIDENTIAL, Solvents: CONFIDENTIAL .In the new update it listed the chemicals found in the products, but I am no closer to finding the PPM. There are two chemicals that concern me in the list and surprise, they are considered solvents.

2-Butoxyethanol which is known to bio-accumulate, can also be absorbed through the skin. Side effects or known side effect can cause coughing, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea and weakness. If inhaled, add in abdominal pain and diarrhea. Excess exposure may cause injury to red blood cells, the kidney and the liver as well as possible side effects to the central nervous system. Petroleum distillates have the same side effects, but the substance is very harmful to aquatic organisms. These are the main solvents used in the dispersant known as EC9500A and EC9527A.

When I read the side effects all I could think about were those poor crewmembers that reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The very same ones, BP claimed was possibly something they ate. Even though they all came from different vessels.

Next stop was the CDC. Great source of information and procedures. First thing I see is in aquatic environments the dispersant begins to break down with in 16 days. Holy crap and I thought it started faster then that, or maybe I was just led to believe it started faster. The most likely exposure will occur to staff handling the material. Thank goodness, I was scared the rescue workers dredging through the toxic waters saving the environment may be exposed to these chemicals sometime during the 16 days it takes to start breaking down the oil. It is not like it can be absorbed into the skin or inhaled. But if by chance they happen to be exposed, they should watch for de-fatting and drying of the skin that could cause dermatitis. All the symptoms noted earlier in this article as well as a metallic taste. Keep in mind these dispersants used are just as safe as your dish soaps and shampoos.

Past history is being ignored because BP, Exxon and Nalco claim that the formula has been changed and improved from what was used in past oils spills. The spill off Normandy where detergents form of dispersant was used still has not recovered after 30 some years. Alaska, where Exxon used the Original EC-9500 has yet to bounce back and recover. Scientist say it could be decades before they see the areas treated return to normal if ever.

Exxon own scientists wrote a report titled Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products stated that 9500 is one of the most toxic dispersal agents ever developed and even worse the higher the temperatures like those found in the Gulf of Mexico will cause the toxicity to grow and that was written not many years before this BP disaster. BP, which stands for British Petroleum, is over here poisoning our waters even after it was banned in Britain over ten years ago.

Scientists all over the world have said the amount being pumped into the gulf is more then any of them have seen before. There is no way to know what the long-term effects will be. They have no clue as to what effect this amount may have on the people who live in the area or who are breathing in the possible vapors emitted into the air. Even Russia’s Minister of natural resources and Russian scientists are warning of possible toxic rains that may develop. Theoretically the dispersant mixed with the heating of the waters found in the Gulf of Mexico can cause the molecules found on the surface to become a gaseous state and be absorbed into the clouds, that will then form a toxic rain. They also claim that if a tropical storm or hurricane like Katrina hits while this dispersant is sitting on or near the surface then it could be catastrophic to the environment and to the people.

Well there we have it in a nutshell, everything they did not want us to know. They can stick a gag order on the media, but you cannot gag everyone on the net.

K. Waters

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