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"Gulf Cleanup Chaos": Report Details Dangers of Dispersants

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August 31, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The dispersants used in cleaning up the Gulf Deepwater Horizon oil disaster may have the same types of adverse effects on humans and wildlife as does the oil itself, according to a new report from Earthjustice, the environmental advocacy law firm.

One scientist who has reviewed the data is D.L. Valentine, a biochemist at the University of Southern California.

"Five chemicals were associated with cancer; 33 chemicals in dispersants were associated with skin irritation from rashes or burns; 33 chemicals are linked to eye irritation; 11 chemicals suspected or potential respiratory toxins or irritants; 11 chemicals in the dispersants are suspected kidney toxins."

More data should be available about the effects of the dispersants used in the BP oil spill, the researchers say. BP responds that fallout from the chemicals used has been minimal.

Among the roadblocks to determining the total health effects of chemical dispersants has been the government itself, says biologist Doug Inkley at the National Wildlife Federation.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the scientific assessments that are currently under way, under the National Resources Damage Assessment, are being held confidential."

Earthjustice says its findings call for more research, greater disclosure, comprehensive toxicity testing, and more careful selection of the least toxic dispersants when needed for an oil-spill response.

The report, "The Chaos Of Clean-Up," reviews scientific research on each of 57 chemical ingredients in dispersants, acknowledging that the actual formulas for specific dispersants are not made public. Its findings are online at earthjustice.org.

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL