Some of the worst fears about the dispersant BP is using in the Gulf
Spill appear to be justified.
When the EPA approved Nalco's Corexit to be used as an oil dispersant
in the Deepwater Horizon disaster last month, we were more than a
little concerned--trade secrets kept the exact ingredients
of the product from being revealed, but safety sheets reported that
Corexit could cause vomiting, reproductive problems, and headaches
the EPA has released the list
of ingredients, and it isn't comforting: Despite Nalco's claims
that Corexit is safe, biodegradable, and free of
carcinogens, it happens to contain substances that--you guessed it!--are
dangerous, non-biodegradable, and carcinogenic.
there's 2-butoxy ethanol. Greenbiz lists the following warnings for the substance:
2-Butoxy Ethanol can affect you by ingestion and may be absorbed
through the skin.
2-Butoxy Ethanol should be
handled as a CARCINOGEN--WITH EXTREME CAUTION.
can irritate the skin and eyes with possible eye damage.
2-Butoxy Ethanol can irritate the nose and throat.
Ethanol can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
can cause headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and passing out.
Ethanol may damage the liver and kidneys.
We've seen 2-butoxy ethanol before: It was also used during cleanup
operations for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster.
In a recent interview with FastCompany.com, Exxon Valdez worker
Merle Savage described many of the symptoms listed above, including
nausea, vomiting, liver damage, and dizziness. Cleanup workers at the BP
disaster site are also reporting similar symptoms. The most disturbing
part: more effective and less toxic products have been around for years.
changes may be coming. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition
urged Congress today to act later this summer, by overhauling the Toxic
Substances Control Act.
That act governs many of the ingredients
in dispersants, but it really doesn't "govern" much at all: According to
the coalition, the act grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals without any
safety tests. Since then, only a few hundred have been scrutinized, and
only five have been restricted.