Newer studies also indicate possible exposure risk to humans
Just three years after BP’s massive Deepwater Horizon disaster, environmental scientists were concerned not only about the ongoing damage done by the petroleum itself, but also about the BP-owned dispersant known as Corexit and its effects on the wide swaths of Gulf waters where the oil conglomerate ordered its use.
Even though few studies exist—and virtually no research on long-term effects—BP has always maintained that Corexit is “safe.” What else would they say about their own product, right? In 2013, though, the journal Take Part compiled what little data there was and listed nine marine animals suspected by marine biologists of having been harmed by Corexit and/ or the “tar balls” it forms when it binds to crude.
- Dolphins- In 2013, infant dolphin deaths in the Gulf were reported up sixfold. Beachings were also up, fourfold according to the report
- Roundworms- A study showed that crude oil alone and dispersant alone both caused “significant” inhibition of reproduction. But a mixture of the two nearly completely inhibited production of hatched larvae
- Copepods- A food source for many fish and other sea life, these miniscule crustaceans were affected by a Corexit/ petroleum mixture at 10 times the severity of Corexit alone
- Rotifers- Hard to overstate this one. These microorganisms lie at the bottom of the marine food chain. There would be no life in the Gulf of Mexico as we know it without them. In another study, the Corexit/ petroleum mixture toxified them 52-fold over each toxin alone
- Coral- It’s also difficult to overstate the gravity of polluting coral reefs. At least two studies have found injured and partially dead coral containing oil. As a concurring scientist noted, the fact that petroleum has been found in coral (at the sea floor) means that Corexit was present. Otherwise, the oil would have remained near the surface
- Birds- Larger marine animals are eaten by humans and birds. Corexit/ oil mixtures are toxic. The risks of damage to economies and health are obvious. Birds that come into contact with it suffer more feather problems than those in contact with petroleum alone
So, what exactly does Corexit correct? We know that the droplets of petroleum mixed with Corexit are way more toxic than either toxin alone. We also know that the droplets sink to the sea bottom, where all manner of damage is possible. It would seem that the concept behind Corexit, then, is at least in part, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The terribly toxic droplets sink, and some of the petroleum at the surface is no longer visible. In this way, BP performs a sort of sleight of hand, a misdirection-based magic trick.
My upcoming novel, ULTIMATE ERROR, is about the serious risks and grave dangers of oil spill cleanups. Sometimes, they do more harm than good. The potential harm is as of yet incalculable.