The most controversial—and damaging—legacy the BP spill may leave may not be the oil-wracked shores around the Gulf of Mexico or the tragic deaths of 11 workers who were on the Deepwater Horizon rig when it exploded. It may turn out to be the still under-reported use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil slick. An estimated 1.9 million gallons of the largely untested chemical cocktail Corexit were dumped on the Gulf — and now, droves of local residents are being afflicted by respiratory sickness, and worse. According to a toxicologist and marine biologist in the area, people are already dying from exposure to the toxic chemical.
From a report by Al Jazeera: (Emphasis mine)The dispersants used … contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol," Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. "Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," she continued. "Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known," Dr. Ott added.
"People are already dying from this… I'm dealing with three autopsies right now. I don't think we'll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska, people are dropping dead now. I know two people who are down to 4.75 per cent of their lung capacity, their heart has enlarged to make up for that, and their esophagus is disintegrating, and one of them is a 16-year-old boy who went swimming in the Gulf."The Al Jazeera report runs through a terrifying list of people who are already suffering respiratory ailments, experiencing severe diarrhea, and major sinus problems. It's scary stuff, and you really should read the whole thing. Health experts cited say the impacts of exposure include "headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage."
There have also been reports of skin rashes and nasty blistering from people who've waded in water hit by dispersed oil, like this woman, who was afflicted after wading in Mobile Bay, Alabama.
The report surveys a wide range of Gulf residents and local and national health experts, and it paints an increasingly grim picture for not only human health in the region, but ecological health as well. Hugh Kaufman, an EPA whistleblower and analyst, tells Al Jazeera that: "We have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that's what dispersants are supposed to do … And, for example, in the Exxon Valdez case, people who worked with dispersants, most of them are dead now."
And BP is still dumping dispersants, and more and more dispersed oil continues to wash ashore every day. Yesterday, I reported that the Obama administration didn't know the impacts of using chemical dispersants in the Gulf before it OK'd them — if conditions continue to worsen in the Gulf, that lack of knowledge could be viewed as potentially fatal negligence.
More on the BP Gulf Spill and Chemical Dispersants
"We Didn't Know the Impacts" of Dispersants on Sea Life: Obama …
Chemical Dispersants 101: How They Work (Video)
BP Heads to Public Schools to "Dispel Myths About Dispersants"
Again, like I said earlier, this is the crime of the century. Some of the chemicals that were distributed along with the dispersants, such as xylene and benzene, are well known carcinogens that are also sometimes used to make napalm and bombs. They dumped millions of gallons of the dispersant and the EPA won't even allow over 1% of benzene to be in U.S. gasoline - while scientists have been finding incredibly substantial amounts in the oil plumes.
Damn, damn, damn.