According to toxicologists making a presentation to the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group — lawyers working to protect the rights and interests of environmental groups and people affected by the BP oil disaster — chemical dispersants used to break up the oil could be just as harmful to wildlife and humans as the untreated oil itself. The group represents the United Fishermen's Association and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), among others.
Last week, the EPA demanded BP use less chemicals.
Dr. William Sawyer, from Florida-based Toxicology Consultants and Assessment Specialists, says there is a lack of research oil companies can access to decide what chemicals to use when dealing with oil spills resulting from disasters. The so-labeled "deodorized kerosenes" pose a potential health risk to volunteers and workers aiding in cleanups, as well as wildlife in the slick's path. Corexit 9500 and EC9527A, the chemicals used to break up the slick on the water's surface, send the oil to the sea floor, where it meets bottom-feeders, instead of allowing the petroleum to make contact with land. The group also says the toxicity of the product increases when it's dissolved in the water.
The group urges BP to supply it with the data the company used to quantify short- and long-term damages when deciding to use the dispersants. It also wants BP to be held accountable for damages caused by the leaking oil.
According to a LEAN report based on an Environmental Protection Agency air-quality evaluation, airborne toxins present since the oil disaster are at levels greater than 100 times those considered safe, the group says. It adds that the toxins pose a significant threat to public health and those residing downwind from the increasing oil slick. — Alex Woodward