A major potential long-term health concern left in the wake of BP’s catastrophic oil spill is the nearly two million gallons of dispersant sprayed over and pumped into the Gulf, scientists say. Much of it was injected into the sea beneath its surface, which made both the amount used, and its use, unprecedented.
In interviews, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FDA officials repeatedly told Raw Story that dispersant “does not bioaccumulate” in seafood and therefore is not toxic to humans. The two dispersants used during the oil spill, Corexit 9527 and Corexit 9500, contain many ingredients “found in common household products.” And even though there is still no chemical test to detect dispersant in Gulf seafood – though officials said one is coming very soon – sensory tests are effective down to one part per million.
Yet when questioned further by Raw Story, both NOAA and FDA officials admitted that the science behind how dispersants used on this scale will actually impact the Gulf ecosystem and food chain is extremely thin.
After Raw Story suggested that little valuable information exists regarding the effect of so much dispersant on fish and shellfish, NOAA toxicologist John Stein first said, “It’s not quite accurate to say that there’s no science.”
But he conceded, “We don’t have it with regard to aquatic species and fish. We don’t have studies with any of the Gulf species,” adding there could be some potential “low risk.”
“We understand that people are concerned about the dispersant,” FDA spokeswoman Meghan Scott told Raw Story in a separate interview. “It obviously was used extensively to disperse the oil.”
“But we really do believe that the dispersant is not likely to be present in the fish, particularly where there’s no oil present,” Scott continued.
Scott eventually added, “We would like to have a greater depth of knowledge.”
Edward Trapido, the Wendell Gauthier Chair of Cancer Epidemiology at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, revealed to Raw Story that 2-butoxyethanol, one of the compounds in Corexit 9527 – the first dispersant used by BP – is not only considered a carcinogen by the state of New Jersey, but the NJ Department of Health says “it should be handled as a carcinogen with extreme caution.”
“Unfortunately,” Trapido added, “there were two dispersants used – 9500 and 9527. They used 9527 first, until the supplies ran out. Then they switched to 9500. But we don’t know how much of the 9527 was used.”
Trapido raised this concern during his testimony in June at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on the spill. He’s heading a research group at LSU that will examine a range of health effects, including psychiatric and behavioral effects, chronic diseases and cancers.
As part of the research, Trapido said he’s been searching for this information on BP’s use of Corexit 9527 but has yet to find it.
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading national environmental group, believes it’s “premature” to claim that dispersant will have little harm on marine life and people.
She also told Raw Story that noting some of the dispersant ingredients are in common household products is “a false assurance.”
Ellman, who contributed to last month’s peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study on Gulf seafood safety, also revealed another chemical activity of dispersant that neither NOAA nor FDA had mentioned to Raw Story.
It’s widely known that the central reason provided by government officials for using the dispersant is to break down oil into smaller pieces, making it more available to oil-eating microbes and thus speeding up the process by which the oil is removed from the ecosystem.
“Dispersant chemicals are effective at breaking the oil down into smaller parts,” she explained. “[But] by breaking it down into smaller pieces, it can more readily be absorbed by aquatic organisms and incorporated into their bodies.”
In other words, Ellman said, there is some literature that says using a dispersant can increase the amount of contamination you might expect in aquatic life because it’s broken the oil down into smaller pieces, which make it easier for animals to absorb.
“So I think both things can exist at the same time because it’s looking at different aquatic processes.”
Trapido, who lives two blocks away from the Mississippi River in New Orleans, home to a “huge seafood presence,” looks forward to the new chemical test to detect dispersants.
“I’ll feel better when that’s done,” he said.
Brad Jacobson is a contributing investigative reporter for Raw Story.
Trump’s racism is ‘disqualifying’ for him to remain as president: former White House lawyer
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal explained on MSNBC on Thursday why he viewed President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four women of color in Congress as disqualifying.
Anchor Brian Williams read a quote from Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.
"Half of the country is appalled but not really sure how to combat him; the other half is cheering, or at least averting its gaze. This is what a political civil war looks like, with words, for now, as weapons," Glasser wrote.
Lawrence O’Donnell reports on the growing movement for the impeachment of President Donald Trump
Anchor Lawrence O'Donnell reported on the growing movement for the impeachment of President Donald Trump during Thursday evening's "The Last Word" on MSNBC.
"The House of Representatives conducted a symbolic vote on a hastily written impeachment resolution by Democratic Congressman Al Green in reaction to the president’s tweeted comments that the House of Representatives voted to condemn as racist," O'Donnell reported. "The impeachment resolution had nothing to do with the [Robert] Mueller investigation and referred only to the president being unfit for office because of the language that he has used recently about members of Congress and immigrants and asylum seekers."
Video proves how far the Trump’s GOP has gone from the era of Ronald Reagan and HW Bush
The immigration policies of Donald Trump’s presidency would have no room for his GOP predecessors Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush—who both embraced work visas, family unification, easy border crossings and a better relationship with Mexico.
That counterpoint can be seen in a very short video clip from the 1980 presidential election where Reagan and Bush—who became Reagan’s vice president for two terms before winning the presidency in 1988—were asked about immigration at a campaign debate in Texas. Their responses show just how far to the right the Republican Party’s current leader, President Trump, and voters who have not left the GOP to become self-described political independents, have moved on immigration.