A new report asserts that the use of the dispersant Corexit during cleanup efforts after the BP oil spill in 2010 caused more damage to human health and the environment than did the spill itself. The report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf, is a collaborative investigation of the health effects of dispersant on humans and ecosystems by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the non-profit Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).
The two groups began their efforts in 2011, collecting data from citizens of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida who experienced the oil spill clean-up’s effects first hand. Their findings are consistent with the dangerous effects that activists like Marine Toxicologist Riki Ott has been warning of ever since she was directly involved in the clean-up and aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
The testimonies detailed devastating human health effects, BP and the government’s failure to protect spill workers, and a general environment of misinformation, lies, and failures surrounding the oil spill response. Workers and individuals who came into contact with Corexit, or were in or near spray zones, experienced severe negative health effects, including: abdominal pain, bloody urine, heart palpitations, hyper-allergic reactions to processed food and common household cleaning or petroleum-based products, hypertension, inability to withstand exposure to sun, kidney damage, liver damage, migraines, multiple chemical sensitivity, neurological damage resulting in memory loss, rapid weight loss, respiratory system damage, nervous system damage, seizures, skin irritation, burning, and lesions, sudden inability to move or speak for sustained periods, temporary paralysis, and vomiting episodes.
The study also found that many workers were told that Corexit did not pose a health risk, and all workers interviewed said that they “were provided minimal or no personal protective equipment on the job.” After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it was discovered that workers suffered lingering health problems to the extent that their illnesses became known as the “Valdez Crud.”
The 2010 BP oil spill was the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history, so it’s not surprising that BP wanted it covered up, and quickly. What is surprising is that the unscrupulous individuals who perpetuated the perception of a dangerous, toxic chemical as a harmless and effective clean-up solution were not just corporate thugs, they were members of our very own Environmental Protection Agency.
When BP decided that they were going to use a chemical dispersant to hide the massive amounts of spilled oil, their message to the public was that Corexit is “as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” There were other EPA-approved alternatives to using Corexit, 12 of which were proven to be more effective than Corexit. Yet, BP was allowed to spray millions of gallons of the chemical into the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Ott, “The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber. It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.”