Dispersants Used by EPA and BP May Have Slowed Cleanup of Oil Spill

By  Derrick Broze

Editor’s Note: Dispersants are chemicals that are sprayed on a surface oil slick to break down the oil into smaller droplets that more readily mix with the water. Dispersants do not reduce the amount of oil entering the environment, but push the effects of the spill underwater.



 (ANTIMEDIA) New research has found that chemical dispersants sprayed over the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did not help speed up the cleanup process, and rather, may have actually hindered it.

The study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal, found the chemical dispersant Corexit 9500 seems to slow down the function of natural microbes, which eat oil. BP, along with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard, sprayed seven million liters of Corexit from airplanes following the spill in an attempt to help natural microbes in the water consume the oil faster. The oil spill released an estimated 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean.

Lead researcher and University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye told the AP the oil “appears” to have dissipated, but that scientists and government officials “didn’t really monitor the microbes and chemicals.” To understand what happened to the dispersant, Joye’s team recreated the situation in a lab using Corexit, BP oil, and water from the gulf. The team tested 50,000 species of bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico, and their findings indicate Corexit not only failed to help the microbes, but actually hurt one important oil-eating bacteria.

Joye also stated that the bacteria, known as marinobacters, which typically multiply in size in the presence of oil, did not grow when Corexit was applied. Instead, Joye says another class of bacteria, which is less effective, grew in size. Joye believes the chemicals were effective in dispersing the oil, even though the researchers are not sure where exactly the oil went. She did offer one suggestion: The oil might still be on the floor of the gulf.

Yep, you read that right. The chemical heavily sprayed from the skies to help cleanup the oil spill actually did nothing, and may have actually slowed the process down while sending the oil down to the ocean floor. Unfortunately, the story does not end there.

For years, the independent, non-corporate media has been reporting on the failures and dangers associated with Corexit. As Activist Post reports:

“Early on, reports began to surface of health anomalies that many believed were attributable to the spraying of the chemical dispersant. Corexit was not only sprayed over the water, but over houses as well. One family documented how all of them became sickened, and afterward tested very high for chemical poisoning. A crew of activists called Project Gulf Impact were on the scene to expose what was taking place, and similarly reported sickness to their own crew, as well as suppression of their media coverage.”

In fact, a study published in April by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggests that Corexit damages epithelium cells within the lungs of humans and gills of marine creatures. The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined epithelium cells — the cells lining the airways of humans and the gills of certain marine species —  and found evidence of damage caused by Corexit.

There were some 48,000 workers involved in the cleanup operations, and it is possible that workers were exposed to Corexit via inhalation,said Veena Antony, M.D., senior author of the paper and professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. “Cough, shortness of breath and sputum production were among symptoms expressed by workers.”

Since the oil spill first took place, BP has been forced to pay a hefty fine, but their business shows no signs of slowing down. The oceans and the animals within them, however, are still paying the price. As long as the people allow the corporation-state complex to continue running the show, we will see a further degradation of the environment, as well an increase in backroom deals that protect corporations from any liability.




This article (Dispersants Used by EPA and BP May Have Slowed Cleanup of Oil Spill) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Derrick Broze and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email [email protected].

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