Corexit made Gulf oil spill 52 times more toxic

Julia Whitty writes for Mother Jones on the environment and she’s written about the dramatic decline in microscopic life on Gulf beaches and also about how using dispersant allowed oil to penetrate much more deeply into beaches, possibly extending lifespan of its toxicity. Now she highlights a new study that finds the addition of Corexit to the Gulf oil explosion made the whole mess much more toxic:

A new study finds that adding Corexit 9500A to Macondo oil—as BP did in the course of trying to disperse its 2010 oilspill disaster—made the mixture 52 times more toxic than oil alone. The results are from toxicology tests in the lab and appear in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution.

Using oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout and Corexit the researchers tested the toxicity of oil, dispersant, and a mixture of oil and dispersant on five strains of rotifers—the lab rats of marine toxicology testing. Among the results:

  • The oil-dispersant mixture killed adult rotifers
  • As little as 2.6 percent of the mixture inhibited egg hatching by 50 percent

The inhibition of egg hatching in bottom sediments is particularly ominous because rotifer eggs hatch each spring to live as adults in the water column where they are important food sources for larval and juvenile fish, for shrimp, crabs and other marine life in estuarine and shoreline ecosystems—including fisheries humans depend on.

“Dispersants are preapproved to help clean up oil spills and are widely used during disasters,” said lead author Roberto-Rico Martinez currently at the Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico. “But we have a poor understanding of their toxicity. Our study indicates the increase in toxicity may have been greatly underestimated following the Macondo well explosion.

3 Responses to Corexit made Gulf oil spill 52 times more toxic

  1. quixote December 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    The thing that gets me about the no-problem-nothing-to-see-here approval of dispersants prior to the Gulf oil disaster is that it is such self-evident BS. Anybody with a basic bio class would know that.

    Dispersants are powerful detergents, i.e. they allow oil to dissolve in water and wash away. (One could debate whether the solution to pollution is dilution, but that’s yet another matter.)

    All biological cells have membranes of lipid bilayers. In other words, fats & oils keep cells from dissolving away.

    Add detergent: dissolve cells. It’s one huge DUH! Saying dispersants are okay until proven otherwise is exactly analogous to telling people to drink sewage and waiting to see whether they get sick.

  2. Allie December 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I thought at one point BP was told to cease dumping that cra@p in the Gulf but they continued to do it anyway. I would speculate they wanted to hide the ginormity of the spill. The news coverage was so pathetic most people have no idea about this Corexit issue. And when the fish disappear nobody will blame BP or our criminally negligent government.

    I actually use soapy water to kill fleas when I flea comb my cats. It is a fairly humane way to do that.

  3. ts December 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    These folks don’t care about life–human or otherwise–except their own sorry, sorry asses. Guess what the irony is.

    And I always seem to forget about the eleven humans who died in that abomination. Hush hush. Don’t get me started on the ruination of essential habitats which were in decline anyway because of stupid human behavior. And the dolphins…I can’t even.

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