BP is using Corexit, a solvent, used as a dispersant for breaking up oil slicks. However, it is toxic to marine life.
It was used during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska. In 2010, Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A are being used in unprecedentedly large quantities in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
According to the manufacturer: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product.”
According to the UK Independent: “Clouds of crude and chemical dispersants have formed in the Gulf of Mexico and oceanologists fear these could have devastating effects on the food chain.”
According to the EPA, Corexit is more toxic than dispersants made by several competitors and less effective in handling southern Louisiana crude. On May 20, 2010, the EPA ordered BP to look for less toxic alternatives to Corexit, and later ordered BP to stop spraying dispersants, but BP responded that it thought that Corexit was the best alternative and continued to spray it.
Reportedly Corexit may be toxic to marine life and helps keep spilled oil submerged. There is concern that the quantities used in the Gulf will create ‘unprecedented underwater damage to organisms.’ Nalco spokesman Charlie Pajor said that oil mixed with Corexit is “more toxic to marine life, but less toxic to life along the shore and animals at the surface” because the dispersant allows the oil to stay submerged below the surface of the water. Corexit 9500 causes oil to form into small droplets in the water; fish may be harmed when they eat these droplets. According to its Material safety data sheet, Corexit may also bioaccumulate, remaining in the flesh and building up over time. Thus predators who eat smaller fish with the toxin in their systems may end up with much higher levels in their flesh.
“It’s the biggest environmental disaster of our time and it’s not even over yet,” said the marine toxicologist Dr Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute based in Maine. She has been diving among the damage and is horrified by the contamination caused by BP’s continued use of dispersants. That ruptures red blood cells and causes fish to bleed. With 800,000 gallons of this, we can only imagine the death that will be caused.”
The most devastating aspect to the spill is the effect on the food chain.
Plankton and smaller shrimp become coated in the toxic chemicals and oil, are then eaten by the larger fish. This moves from the bottom up, ending with sharks, dolphins, whales. Fisheries and 100-year-old coral forests. Our seafood.
Marine biologists say the timing couldn’t be worse, because this is when animals are reproducing and hatching. This impacts the young, a generation.