Dispersants Might Be INCREASING Damage From Gulf Oil Spill → Washingtons Blog
Dispersants Might Be INCREASING Damage From Gulf Oil Spill - Washingtons Blog

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dispersants Might Be INCREASING Damage From Gulf Oil Spill

Everyone knows that the dispersants being dumped into the Gulf oil are toxic. As I wrote Friday:

Highly toxic dispersants have been used to try to break up the oil. See this and this. Not only are dispersants being released underwater, but the air force is also dropping dispersants on the slick from above.

The official information for the dispersant reveals problems:

OSHA requires companies to make Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDSs, available for any hazardous substances used in a workplace, and the ones for these dispersants both contain versions of a disturbing statement.


Both data sheets include the warning "human health hazards: acute." The MSDS for Corexit 9527A [the dispersant apparently being used in the Gulf] states that "excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects," and "repeated or excessive exposure to butoxyethanol [an active ingredient] may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver." It adds: "Prolonged and/or repeated exposure through inhalation or extensive skin contact with EGBE [butoxyethanol] may result in damage to the blood and kidneys."

And see this.

Indeed, the specific dispersant being used is more toxic and less effective than other alternative dispersants, perhaps because of BP's connections to the manufacturer.

In addition, new questions have arisen as to whether the dispersants might actually being increasing damage from the oil itself.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes today:

More relevant could be the dispersant that BP is applying to the oil at the source. BP officials have hailed the process as a success, noting diminishing oil at the surface. But the dispersant breaks the oil into smaller drops, which might instead be spreading throughout the water column, instead of rising to the surface.

Similarly, Agence France-Press writes:
Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said the [large underwater] plumes were "perhaps due to the deep injection of dispersants which BP has stated that they are conducting."
The Christian Science Monitor points out:
It is not clear what this would mean environmentally, though past research indicates that oil can be trapped in the seabed for decades after oil on the surface is cleaned away.
Moreover, as Greenpeace marine biologist and oil spill expert Paul Horsman explains, using dispersants and oil booms are competing strategies. Specifically, breaking something down into tiny bits and dispersing it throughout a mile-plus deep and hundreds-miles wide region (the reason massive amounts of dispersants are being applied at the 5,000 foot-deep spill site as well as at the surface) makes it more difficult to cordon off and contain oil on the surface (the reason booms are being used).

Shouldn't the use of dispersants be stopped until scientists figure out whether they will make things better or worse?

Updates: Even "Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the crisis, said the breakup has complicated the cleanup. "

And see this.


  1. The USCG uses dispersant yet will fine me $25000 if I were to use dispersant on less than a cup of diesel fuel spilled while filling my boat. They do hate us for our freedoms don't they!

  2. The media have reported that President Obama maybe considering a nuclear solution to the massive Gulf Oil Spill.

    NO I am not joking; leastwise I don’t find it amusing.

    It's so surreal... like a sci-fi movie. The earth is threatened by a huge hole in its crust, leaking crude oil like a highly pressurized volcano and threatening to kill all life in the oceans. The solution? The military detonate a nuclear bomb in an attempt to melt the cap rock and seal the leak.

    But this is no science fiction. As reported on May 14th, Barack Obama sends nuclear experts to tackle BP's Gulf of Mexico oil leak:


  3. Giving new meaning to the phrase "sweeping it under the rug."

  4. I remember when bad sadam supposedly put fire on the oil wells in iraq this Halliburton got all the lucrative contract to rebuild iraq's oil well and got a good money from the iraqi treasury . That was a fun job with lot of profit. But now sadam is dead no one to blame but the lucrative rebuilding the oil rig under water is there for halliburton. How about blaming the alciada this time but you cant take the money from iraq or afghanistan this time , take money from USA .Take it halli and enjoy rebuilding.

  5. I have to laugh at comments related to the possibility of using a nuclear device to resolve the issue. People talk of fallout, melting the earths crust, obliterating the southern USA and other comments. Do these individuals have any knowledge of current weapons technologies? This would not be an appropriate situation for a mega-ton weapon. One large enough to collapse a tunnel lined with concrete should do the trick. A fractional weight, tactical nuclear weapon would barely be detectable at that depth. A decent splash but no giant killer wave, no radiation(ever wonder why they keep fuel rods in pools of water). I just hope if they do use this option, they really understand the potential for fracturing of the dome structure of this underground reservoir if you will, and how the massive loss of volume of oil within this structure, over a relatively short period of time, potentially increases or effects the dome structure's integrity with respect to using explosives(nuclear or not) to seal it off.

    Real info I wish would be relased are this specific well's reserves estimations, it's maximum measured flow rate prior to the well head being placed and also any initial well ground structure imaging so we could get an idea of unrestricted flow values and potential volumes in case of the worst senario of major structure fracturing or the total loss of the well head.

    What type of impact would say an unrestricted flow value of 3M bbl of oil per day for a few years have on the gulf? Obviously the flow would decrease over time if let loose but I have a nasty suspicion that someone is not telling us because the potential bad news is "extremely" bad news. Usually I measure the severity of a national crisis by the time before the president come on TV to say something. My feeling is the opposite of most people's assumption of what he should do...the worse the crisis, the quicker he arrives on the boob tube...WRONG! Basically he and the other folks are sitting around saying "Oh Crap, how are we going to tell them news this bad and not create mass hysteria?". They still haven't figured out how to tell us and are trying their best to keep 100 million gallons of oil somewhere other than the shoreline. Give it time. No way they can't stop the effects from this. No story other than a larger national disaster will take media and public priority over this...oops, did I just give them an idea? I take it back...please don't. We can take it. No stock market crashes, no buildings blown up, no more wars, no more missing terrorists, no more "earthquakes" please. Just leave us alone mr politician.


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.