Chemicals Used on Oil Spill Pose New Hazards

Less oil reaches shore, but toxins remain in the water
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2010 2:18 PM CDT
A tern checks her two eggs on the beach in Gulfport, Miss., Saturday.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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(Newser) – BP has begun using huge amounts of chemical dispersants to contain the oil slick that has tripled in only a day and is now the size of Puerto Rico. (AP has more on the growing size here.) And while those chemicals—being used above and below the surface—will help reduce the amount of oil that makes landfall, they create a whole new set of environmental concerns in the water, reports ProPublica.

The makeup of the dispersants is secret under trade laws, but their toxins can kill fish and collect on the seabed to reenter the food chain. "There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” says an expert on marine biology. “It’s a trade off—you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t—of trying to minimize the damage coming to shore, but in so doing you may be more seriously damaging the ecosystem offshore."

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