BP Embraces Exxon’s Toxic Dispersant, Ignores Safer Alternative
It has been confirmed that the dispersal agent being used by BP and the government is Corexit 9500, a solvent originally developed by Exxon and now manufactured by Nalco Holding Company of Naperville, IL. Their stock took a sharp jump, up more than 18% at its highest point of the day today, after it was announced that their product is the one being used in the Gulf. Nalco’s CEO, Erik Frywald, expressed their commitment to “helping the people and environment of the Gulf Coast recover as rapidly as possible.” It may be that the best way to help would be to remove their product from the fray. Take a look at some of the facts about Corexit 9500:
A report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. entitled “Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products: An Overview” states that “Corexit 9500, Corexit 9527, and Corexit 9580 have moderate toxicity to early life stages of fish, crustaceans and mollusks (LC50 or EC50 – 1.6 to 100 ppm*). It goes on to say that decreasing water temperatures in lab tests showed decreased toxicity, a lowered uptake of the dispersant. Unfortunately, we’re going to be seeing an increase in temperatures, not a decrease. Amongst the other caveats is that the study is species-specific, that other animals may be more severely affected, silver-sided fish amongst them.
Oil is toxic at 11 ppm while Corexit 9500 is toxic at only 2.61 ppm; Corexit 9500 is four times as toxic as the oil itself. Sure, a lot less of it is being introduced, but that’s still a flawed logical perspective, because it’s not a “lesser of two evils” scenario. BOTH are going into the ocean water.
The lesser of two evils seems to be a product called Dispersit, manufactured by Polychem, a division of U.S. Polychemical Corporation. In comparison, water-based Dispersit is toxic at 7.9-8.2 ppm; Dispersit holds about one third of the toxicity that Corexit 9500 presents. Dispersit is a much less harmful water-based product which is both EPA approved and the U.S. Coast Guard’s NCP list. So why isn’t it being used?
We spoke with Bruce Gebhardt at Polychem Marine Products, asked him if Dispersit was being used in the Gulf Oil Spill situation. “Very little,” he replied. When asked why, the impression was that the government had used Corexit 9500 in the past, and was going with what they know — no matter how dangerous that might prove to be.
Dispersit has a demonstrated effectiveness of 100% on the lighter South Louisiana crude, and 40% on Pruhoe Bay’s heavier crude. Exxon’s Corexit 9500 is just 55% effective on SL and 55% effective on PB. On an average, Dispersit is 70% effective, and may prove 100% effective, while 9500 is an average of 50% effective, with a maximum effective use of just 55%. Corexit 9500 is a harsh petroleum-based solvent which is dangerous to people and sea life. Dispersit’s human health effect is “slight to none.” Whether or not a dispersal agent is a wise move, the question remaining unanswered is: Why is Corexit 9500 is being used at all, when the water-based Dispersit is available, markedly more effective and less toxic? Follow the money.
Dispersal of the oil does not eliminate it, nor does it decrease the toxicity of the oil. It just breaks it up into small particles, where it becomes less visible. It’s still there, spewing toxicity at an even greater rate (due to higher surface area.) But now it’s pretty much impossible to skim or trap or vacuum or even soak up at the shoreline, because most of it will never make it to the shoreline. Instead, that toxic crude oil AND the dispersant will be spread all over the ocean’s waters. This is why introducing such a product into the crude oil as it comes out from the pipe is a very bad idea for the ocean.
It may not be pretty, but if the oil makes it to the shore, it can be soaked up, cleaned up. To “disperse” it means it will NEVER be cleaned up. It will just stay out there, polluting and poisoning the ocean, her inhabitants, and all the food we take from it. It’s unwise to be using Corexit 9500 at all, but introducing it to the oil as it leaves the broken pipe is approaching madness. Mr. Gebhardt agrees that the oil should be contained, and what has been leaked should be allowed to come to shore where it can be removed from the ocean by less toxic means.
BP’s use of Corexit 9500 on the oil before it rises to the surface seems to be a deliberate attempt to mask the poison, to cover up that it continues to flow out from the ocean’s floor, while making it impossible to recover. In short, BP and Exxon want to spread the toxic oil throughout the oceans of the world, pollute everywhere, rather than allow it to be seen coming to shore where BP would have to pay for its containment and clean-up. It’s our job to keep them from getting away with sweeping this ugly mess under the surface.