What's In Your Goo?
A new report by the public-interest law firm Earthjustice and the online toxicology encyclopedia Toxipedia dives into the still-too-murky world of the safety of chemical dispersants, a year after the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chaos of Clean-Up tries to make sense of the chemical ingredients that were eligible for use at the time of the disaster, despite the fact that the “ingredients and formulas for various dispersants on the market typically are not available and it is not fully known which chemical ingredients among the 57 are found in which dispersant.”
A Heinz 57 recipe this is not: 5 of the chemicals are associated with cancer; 33 with skin irritation; 11 are suspected or potential respiratory toxins or irritants; and 10 are suspected kidney toxins. Eight of the chemicals are suspected or known to be toxic to aquatic organisms and 5 are suspected to have a moderate acute toxicity to fish.
The ocean of unknowns leads the report to call for “more research, greater disclosure of the information that is known, comprehensive toxicity testing, the establishment of safety criteria for dispersants, and careful selection of the least toxic dispersants for application in oil spill response.”
-- Reed McManus
Image: EPA. Clean-up in Pensacola, Florida.