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Natural Awakenings

Worse and Worse: Use of Chemical Dispersants on Oil Spills is No Answer

Jul 01, 2010 03:00AM

Within the first month of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, British Petroleum (BP) had already released more than 600,000 gallons of a chemical dispersant into the Gulf of Mexico, with more to follow. While preventing leaking oil from surfacing, it may do far more to hide the true magnitude of the disaster from public scrutiny than to save the beaches.

Dispersants are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as bioaccumulators, which are known to drive toxic hydrocarbons from crude oil directly into marine life, while distributing toxins throughout the water column, where they can do the most harm to the widest range of species. The public already has seen how use of chemical dispersants has accelerated the oil’s entry into the loop current and Gulf Stream, where it now poses a significant threat to the health of the world’s oceans.

Experts explain that accelerating the biodegradation of the oil by ocean bacteria using dispersants causes oxygen depletion and animal death. Making the problem worse, dispersing the problem this way also hinders the recovery of the oil through siphoning, and enables it to slip more easily under protective booms into beaches and wetland habitats. details the issue. Sign the petition at or contact your state representatives (via

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