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Are the oil dispersants killing the turtles in the Gulf?

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posted on May, 5 2010 @ 01:06 PM

ROBERT, La. – A massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has become the testing ground for a new technique where a potent mix of chemicals is shot deep undersea in an effort to stop oil from reaching the surface, and scientists are hurriedly weighing the ecological risks and benefits.

Crews battling the spill already have dropped more than 156,000 gallons of the concoction — a mix of chemicals collectively known as "dispersant" — to try to break up the oozing oil, allowing it to decompose more quickly or evaporate before washing ashore.

The technique has undergone two tests in recent days that the U.S. Coast Guard is calling promising, and there are plans to apply even more of the chemicals. But the effect of this largely untested treatment is still being studied by numerous federal agencies, and needs approval from a number of them before it can be rolled out in a larger way.

"Those analyses are going on, but right now there's no consensus," said Charlie Henry, the scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "And we're just really getting started. You can imagine it's something we've never thought about."

Chemical dispersants carry complex environmental trade-offs: helping to keep oil from reaching sensitive wetlands while exposing other sea life to toxic substances. The concoction works like dish soap to separate oil and water, but the exact chemical composition is protected as a trade secret.

More than 230,000 gallons of dispersant is available, and more is being manufactured by Nalco Company of Naperville, Ill., for use in the Gulf. Neither Nalco, BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd or the Coast Guard have specified how much of the chemical brew will be needed to handle this spill.

One of the chief agents being used, called Corexit 9500, is identified as a "moderate" human health hazard that can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation with prolonged exposure, according to safety data documents.

According to the company, Corexit contains no known carcinogens or substances on the federal government's list of toxic chemicals.

Even some of the most ardent environmentalists, while concerned about the potential effects, aren't suggesting that the chemical concoction shouldn't be used in this case.

"It's basically a giant experiment," said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser with Defenders of Wildlife. "I'm not saying we shouldn't do it; we have no good options."

A dead sea turtle has been found on the shore in Dauphin Island. George Crozier, director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, said Tuesday that scientists don't think the death is linked to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Necropsies on 29 turtles found along Mississippi beaches over the weekend revealed no evidence of oil. Experts warn the turtles may have eaten fish contaminated by the oil spill. Results from tissue samples taken at a marine life rehabilitation center in Gulfport, Miss. are to return in a week.

Shouldn't we review exactly what they are putting into the Gulf? Trade secrets shouldn't be allowed in this case. How do we know the stuff isn't killing the turtles unless we know what's in it?

posted on May, 5 2010 @ 01:15 PM
I know the other day someone posted this thread about the absence of oil in 5 that were found, but it is a tad weird that they would keep the composition of a dispersant secret.

No evidence of oil found in 5 dead sea turtles

Would the use of the word "fishy" be inappropriate here?

posted on May, 5 2010 @ 01:30 PM
Just like how the carbon dioxide we breathe out, the hydrocrabons coming out from down south or hoizontal depending on your position.

So if you are against the dispersants that seperate oil from the water, then I guess you don't use soaps while bathing? or wash dishes with soap?

Their might be some trade offs as to the effects it might have on aqautic life, but an oil slick would be more of a threat than the dispersants.

posted on May, 5 2010 @ 01:35 PM
reply to post by prionace glauca

I didn't say I was against them.

I said we should know exactly what is in them, preferably before we put too much more into the Gulf, because as things stand right now there is no way of knowing what the side effects might be.

This situation has absolutely NO easy outs.

It might turn out the the safest thing to do is not use the disperants. We don't know and can't know until they find out what's in the stuff.

posted on May, 5 2010 @ 06:39 PM
Here's an angle that may, or may not, provide an answer to what's killing the turtles.

I was just watching a live newsfeed a couple minutes ago, (the cbs bigtruck) and the reporter mentioned that they think the turtles might have been caught, and killed, in fishermen's nets who were trying to maximize their catch before they got shut down.

He also said that there's still no evidence of any oil, or other obvious cause. It seems they'd have some idea, by now, if the dispersant was killing them.

It does almost make sense.

posted on May, 5 2010 @ 07:16 PM
reply to post by lernmore

It would depend on how close the dead turtles got to dispersant-affected waters and how long they spent therre.

Can't tell, there's no way of knowing, which is my point. Perhaps they could cool it with the dispersant long enough to find out what's actually in it? It couldn't take more than a few hours max to review the ingredients and determine if they are harmful.

posted on May, 6 2010 @ 05:09 AM
Here's some quotes from an article I was just reading concerning the toxicity of dispersants:

"“There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” said Richard Charter, a foremost expert on marine biology and oil spills who is a senior policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife and is chairman of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. “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.”"

"According to a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, the dispersants and the oil they leave behind can kill fish eggs. A study of oil dispersal in Coos Bay, Ore. found that PAH accumulated in mussels, the Academy’s paper noted. Another study examining fish health after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 found that PAHs affected the developing hearts of Pacific herring and pink salmon embryos. The research suggests the dispersal of the oil that’s leaking in the Gulf could affect the seafood industry there."

[edit on 6-5-2010 by mrwiffler]

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