Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, British Petroleum (BP) purchased massive amounts of Corexit, a chemical dispersant that was supposed to help break up the oil to make the cleanup process easier.
At the time, many raised questions about the safety of the product, which is banned in Norway due to environmental concerns:
- BP using less effective, more toxic, oil dispersing chemicals than it needs to
- EPA tells BP to use less toxic chemicals in Gulf leak
- Nurse comments on victims of BP dispersants: ‘toxified people who have been chemically poisoned’
- ‘More environmentally friendly’ oil dispersants from Norway rejected
As you probably already guessed, BP went on the offensive to criticize anyone who dared suggest Corexit may be a problem. Chief Executive Bob Dudley dismissed concerns in a meeting with nervous shareholders:
“The toxicity of Corexit is about the same as dish soap, which is effectively what it is and how it works.”
Yes, the company that caused the horrible disaster, and that showed a distinct inability to fix their mistakes, were now the experts compared to actual experts, who were worried about the environmental impact of the chemicals.
The US EPA should have been more forceful though like most government departments (and politicians for that matter), they’re often afraid of confrontation with the corporate world. Whether it’s fear of immediate reprisals or fear of blocked job prospects (the revolving door), the EPA has not been clear on the impact of Corexit.
What is clear according to scientists are the serious problems in the Gulf of Mexico three years after Deepwater Horizon. Corexit has been described as “deodorized kerosene,” which is strongly linked to humans or animals that breathe air.
As long as none of us need to actually breathe air, we should be fine.
Even more troubling are the emerging problems with petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) getting into the food system. Scientists are now finding unsafe levels of it in seafood, which can have health consequences for humans as well. Some scientists believe that Corexit contributed to this spike in PHC.
As if these problems weren’t enough, many residents along the coast are reporting sicknesses that otherwise can’t be explained. It would be to the benefit of these people to have a much more thorough investigation into these problems, but between the BP and Big Oil apologists in Congress, and a wobbly EPA, this sounds doubtful. If Congress can’t even address the problem of seniors being denied cancer treatment because of the sequester, it’s hard to see how they might take action here.
Though the problems are serious and unpleasant, you really want to read David Kirby’s article about the ongoing problems along the Gulf coast.