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Are Chemical Dispersants Used to Clean Up Oil Spills Actually Toxic?

It is common knowledge that oil spills are harmful to the environment, yet in the rush to clean them up we could be doing more damage; at least that is what certain environmental groups fear.

Several groups filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its rules on the use of chemical dispersants to clean up oil spills, claiming that they do not meet clean water requirements.

They basically claim that the current dispersants merely replace the oil in the water with a different polluting chemical.

The lawsuit is based upon the fact that the EPA has not published any schedule to identify when and where the dispersants can be used, and in what quantities.

During the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 more than 1.8 million gallons of chemicals were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico without knowing the true extent of any toxic effects it might have on the environment.

Environmental groups also sued the EPA and US Coast Guard back in Aril over the unknown effects of dispersants on endangered species.

It really would be a shocking revelation to find that in cleaning up the oil spills the companies are actually adding to the pollution, and that the EPA has almost been turning a blind eye to it. Maybe more attention should be paid to the effects of cleaning up oil spills, rather than concentrating fully on the oil spill itself.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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  • Dr. TK Roy on July 14 2014 said:
    After Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, an American based multi- national company had donated tons of a non- toxic biodegradable chemical surfactant (brand name LOC) for shore clean-up. Moreover, with the help of this liquid chemical, thousands of Pelicans' lives were saved.
    Now, after 25 years of the incidence, is there any similar non- toxic, biodegradable dispersant available? if so, please name the brand & its manufacturer.
  • Larry Barge on November 23 2012 said:
    I was in the US Navy back in 1967 to 1973 on a fleet oiler and we had an oil spill. We used US Navy fog foam to dissolve the spill. Is this in fact a plausible method for oil clean up?
  • JReffery on August 13 2012 said:
    The New Zealand EPA have allowed the Maritime New Zealand to apply an unapproved dispersant in NZ waters when MV Rena grounded under emergency regulations without even retrospectively assessing it. Leading one to ponder - do regulators even care

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