Is the dispersant used in oil spills just as bad as the oil itself?



  1. 0 Votes

    It’s hard to compare the two, since they’re harmful in different ways. However, I wouldn’t say that the dispersants used are as bad as the whole oil spill. The scale of the spill itself is absolutely massive, beyond comprehension in its hugeness, and the amount of dispersant used (while not insignificant) cannot compare to the amount of oil.

    However, the dispersants are still highly toxic and harmful. Even worse, BP has chosen to use a dispersant that is even MORE toxic than others available, while being less effective! The EPA has 18 approved dispersants, and a whopping 12 of those are more effective than the one used by BP. Many of these 12 dispersants are 10 to 20 times less toxic than the one used by BP.

    So while the dispersant is harmful, it cannot really be compared by the overall magnitude of the oil spill.

  2. 0 Votes

    Dispersants can be highly toxic and harmful to marine wildlife.  In the Gulf, BP used the dispersants Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A, which are either comparable or 10 to 20 times more toxic than 12 other dispersants on the EPA’s approved list.  As for efficacy, the EPA rates Corexit EC9500A at 55 percent, and Corexit EC9527A at 63 percent.  These rankings place them behind 12 other dispersants (out of 18) that the agency has determined do a better job dispersing oil while protecting marine life.  However, research concerning Corexit’s effects on marine wildlife is sparse.

  3. 0 Votes

    This question is hard to conclusively answer because of the aforementioned sparsity of toxicology research as regardes dispersants. One of the reasons so little is known about the effects of Corexit on is because of the extremely limited testing the EPA performs on most dispersants and other potentially toxic elements. Most EPA (and FDA) testing is done a) in lab-controlled samples, b) in extremely high doses/potencies, and c) to analyze the short-term impact on chosen sample groups.

    This makes any EPA findings on dispersant toxicology really hard to integrate into a situation involving an entire ecosystem, as with the dispersants (esp. Corexit) being used on such a crazy wide scale and affecting a variety of creatures in the Gulf. It certainly can’t be GOOD to use such a notoriously toxic chemical on that scale, but it’s hard to speculate on the amount of damage it will actually cause.

    Overall, I have to agree with yzezzy’s great analysis, that the sheer amount of oil in this equation renders the dispersant question kind of moot. That water is already good and poisoned, and while the dispersants certainly aren’t helping as much as they should, their effect probably won’t be as damaging as the oil.

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