The Politics of Dispersants

The New York Times, August 4, 2010, 2:58 pm

Although the chemicals have not been properly evaluated for long term effects, officials permitted the use of 1.8 million gallons of dispersant on the gulf oil spill.

During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Senate meeting, many concerns and doubts surfaced about allowing the use these dispersants in such unprecedented quantities.

It was noted that the chemicals do not meet the E.P.A. standards for toxicity levels even though they do meet the E.P.A. criteria for effectiveness. The release of these chemicals into the gulf could disrupt the endocrine systems of sea animals and, possibly, humans.

One scientist, Jacqueline Savitz, the senior campaign director at the environmental group Oceana, suggested more testing in order to put circling doubts about the environmental and health impacts the dispersants might present in the future to rest. She put it this way: "If you zap somebody with a bunch of chemicals and they don't die, it doesn't mean they continue to develop normally.

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Senate Committee Hearing

Senate Committee Hearing

Paul Anastas of the Environmental Protection Agency, left, and David Westerholm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration testify on dispersants before a Senate committee. Photo: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times